3 February 2022
The Marine Enforcement Section is aware of recent Social Media posts regarding the catching and retaining of lobster in St Helena Waters.
Allegations have been made of illegal fishing practices, therefore an investigation was undertaken and it was found that no illegal fishing had taken place:
- The appropriate fishing licences were in place
- No lobster were killed using spears/lances
- No lobster carrying eggs were taken
- All lobster taken were above the legal minimum size.
Below outlines the current regulations in place for the protection of St Helena’s lobster species and the justification for such regulations:
Protection for lobster carrying eggs (Berried Lobster) – A lobster that has eggs attached to its underside are referred to as ‘Berried Lobster’. It is an offence at any time of year to catch and retain a Berried Lobster or remove eggs from a Berried Lobster.
Justification – A Berried Lobster in St Helena’s waters can be carrying up to 300,000 eggs. Removing this from the fishery can be severely damaging to the lobster population.
Closed season for lobster – This year will see St Helena’s first closed season for lobster. There will be a complete closure of the Spiny Lobster and Stump Lobster fishery from 1 October – 31 December.
Justification – From 1 October – 31 December lobster are in the early stages of their reproductive process. At this time eggs are stored internally and there are no visible signs that the lobster is reproducing. Even the most conservation minded fisher could take an egg producing lobster and not realise. The lobster needs the highest level of protection during this period.
Closed season for spearfishing/lancing 1 Jan – 31 March. – Every year there is a complete ban on spearfishing/lancing from 1 January – 31 March.
Justification – This is a restriction on a fishing method and helps protect Berried Lobster and other marine species during the spawning season. By this time the lobster are in more advanced stages of the reproductive process, female lobster will now be storing eggs on their underbelly and it is easy to visually check to see if lobster are producing eggs.
If a lobster is killed using a spear/lance the lobster will be dead before a fisher can check to see if the lobster is carrying eggs.
Where lobster are caught using other fishing methods (hand gathering, snare, pots/traps) the lobster can be visually inspected whilst it is still alive and safely returned to the sea.
- Any Spiny Lobster (Long leg) must have a carapace length of at least 85mm along the center line of the carapace before it can be retained or landed.
- Any Stump Lobster must have a carapace length of at least 100mm along the center line of the carapace before it can be retained or landed.
Justification – The minimum size is linked to when a lobster reaches sexual maturity and can reproduce. Having a minimum size in place ensures all lobster have a chance to contribute to the biomass of the species.
Total Annual Catch (TAC) – A TAC is the total amount of lobster that can be removed from the sea in a year sustainably. The TACs for St Helena’s lobster species have been informed by scientific survey work. The TAC for Spiny Lobster is 1000Kg and the TAC for Stump Lobster is 500Kg. It is not expected that the TACs will be exceeded this year.
Justification – By restricting the amount of lobster we take on an annual basis we can ensure that we are not taking too much and damaging the stocks. Scientific survey data shows that if we do not exceed the TACs the local population, through reproduction, will be able to replace the lobster that we take year on year.
3 February 2022