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HomeNewsArchivesPublic Hearings Will Address Size Limits on Imported Spiny Lobsters

Public Hearings Will Address Size Limits on Imported Spiny Lobsters

July 16, 2008 — The Caribbean Fisheries Management Council will hold hearings next week to hear what the public has to say about a proposal to set minimum size limits on imported spiny lobsters.
There are currently no size limits on spiny-lobster imports.
The meetings will take place Monday at Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort conference room on St. Thomas and Tuesday at the Caravelle Hotel conference room on St. Croix. They will run from 7 to 10 p.m.
The changes will level the playing field for local spiny-lobster fishermen by matching the minimum size limits on imported lobsters to the minimums size limits on lobsters caught in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The imported lobsters can come from any foreign location, said Graciela García-Moliner, habitat specialist at the Fisheries Management Council's Puerto Rico office. Lobsters caught in Anguilla, for example, may be shipped to Canada, where they are subsequently exported to the Virgin Islands, she said.
The proposed regulation also covers lobsters imported into the United States from foreign locations, García-Moliner said. But the proposed regulation covers only imports, not commercial fishing in the Virgin Islands, she noted.
"There are no changes in the fishing regulation," García-Moliner said.
Spiny lobster fishing regulations indicate that the lobsters caught in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico must be 3.5 inches long. Additionally, female lobsters with eggs may not be taken.
"We're protecting the spawners," Garcia-Moliner said.
The proposed import regulation states that spiny lobsters shipped into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico must have 3.5 carapace length for whole spiny lobsters. Additionally, lobster tails must have a six-ounce tail weight or a 6.2-inch tail length.
Spiny lobsters imported into the U.S. mainland can be smaller. They must have a three-inch carapace length for whole spiny lobsters, the same as fishing regulations in the States. Tails must weigh five ounces or measure 5.5 inches.
Additionally, the proposed reulgation will prohibit importation of lobster meat into the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland without the shell attached, as well as the importation of egg-bearing females and tails stripped of eggs.
Fishermen in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico want the spiny lobster carapace size to remain at a minimum of 3.5 inches to protect the fishery, García-Moliner said. She pointed to the smaller size limit in Florida.
"Lobster fisheries in Florida have collapsed, but there's been no collapse here," she said.
In addition to the public hearings, people may comment in writing about the proposed changes by Aug. 11. Send an email, fax to 727-824-5308 or mail to Jason Reuter, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Southeast Regional Office, NOAA Fisheries Service, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701-5505.
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