Park Prepares for Lobster "Mini-Season"
Thomas M. Strom
Contact: Gary Bremen, 305-230-1144, x007
During the July 27 and 28 Spiny Lobster Sport Season, Biscayne National Park rangers will be actively patrolling both Biscayne Bay and the outer reefs to ensure both public safety and legal lobster harvest. At the same time, park biologists will be stationed at popular boat launching sites to complete surveys on the quantity, size, sex and harvest locations for lobsters. The surveys provide scientists with important information which help them monitor and better understand the Park’s lobster populations.
Harvesting lobsters in the Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary (whose boundaries overlap the Park’s boundaries) is prohibited year-round. The Sanctuary was established by the State of Florida to provide a place where lobsters can live and breed safely year-round to provide a replenishment zone to surrounding areas. The Sanctuary includes all of Biscayne Bay and Card Sound from a line connecting Matheson Hammock to the southern tip of Key Biscayne all the way south to Pumpkin Creek and the Card Sound Bridge. The Sanctuary’s eastern boundary conforms to the high water line on the east side of the Keys, including all natural and artificial tidal creeks and channels in that area.
In Biscayne National Park and in Monroe County, recreational harvesters with a valid Florida recreational saltwater fishing license and lobster permit can take up to 6 legal-sized lobsters (3” carapace length) per person, per day during the Sport Season. Outside Biscayne National Park and Monroe County, the legal limit is 12 lobsters per person, per day during the Sport Season. During the Regular Spiny Lobster Season that opens August 6 and runs through March 31, 2012, licensed harvesters can take six animals per person per day, regardless of where the legal harvesting takes place. The taking of egg-bearing female lobsters and the use of spearguns or other hook-type instruments is prohibited. All lobsters must remain in whole condition until returned to the mainland.
Superintendent Mark Lewis reminds all participants that if they are at all in doubt as to the location of the sanctuary boundaries, they should err on the side of caution and move further out. He also stresses that safety is a priority during lobster season. The use of a 20" x 24" dive flag is required to be displayed on vessels used by divers and snorkelers. Boats must stay at least 300 feet from any boat displaying a dive flag unless at idle speed. Use and display dive flags properly. Look for dive flags while operating a vessel and exercise caution near them. Diving in or within 100 feet of a marked channel is prohibited in Biscayne National Park. To help ensure safety and protection of the resource and visitors, a unified team of National Park Service Rangers, working in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other enforcement agencies, will be out on the water in both marked and unmarked vessels during the entire two-day event, including nighttime hours.
All harvesters should take special precautions against unintentional interactions with poisonous lionfish, which tend to hide in the same habitats as lobsters. The taking of lionfish anywhere in Florida is not regulated, and the species are considered a delicacy. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) has published a cookbook that details safe harvesting and preparation methods, and the book is available in the bookstore at Biscayne National Park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center.
A downloadable lobster brochure, including a map of the Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary and information on how to properly measure a lobster, is available by going online at www.nps.gov/bisc then clicking on the "Fishing & Lobstering" Quick Link. For further information, please call the park at 305-230-7275, or get updates year-round by following @BiscayneNPS on Twitter.