Enhancement of Florida’s Panulirus argus Population

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Richard Spieler

Second Advisor

Tom Matthews


Caribbean spiny lobsters have been harvested in Floridafor over 100 years and have been one of the state’s most valuable commercial fishery and perhaps the most intensive recreational fishery of any lobster species; however, landings and lobster population abundance declined beginning in 2000. The goal of the study was to review the life history and ecology of Panulirus argus inFlorida and assess potential population enhancement strategies for each stage. The study was conducted through a search of scientific literature, unpublished reports, popular books and personal communications.

Potential population enhancement methods with respect to the Panulirus argus’s life history that were examined include larvae aquaculture and seeding, pueruli aquaculture or capture with seeding as well as protection of pueruli habitat, algal-phase juvenile habitat protection and habitat augmentation, post-algal juvenile habitat protection and habitat augmentation as well as growout of pueruli to latter stage juveniles for seeding, and sub-legal and legal size lobster habitat protection and habitat augmentation. Of these, two options seem most viable, 1) protection and augmentation of sponge and coral species that comprise juvenile lobster habitat or the utilization of artificial habitats to increase the number of size-appropriate shelters and 2) aquaculture of lobsters or growout of wild-caught pueruli to latter stage juveniles for subsequent seeding. Increased habitat would likely increase habitat carrying capacity and decrease lobster mortality by predation. Growout and seeding would also reduce predation on lobsters by by-passing the high mortality of small lobsters during that portion of their life cycle. Potential population enhancement could also be achieved by revisingFlorida’s lobster fishing regulations. Regulations need to better address the high mortality of sub-legal size lobsters used as attractants for “baiting” traps, a minimum size limit below the size of maturity, landing quotas or lack thereof that allows 90% of legal-size lobsters to be taken each year and a harvesting season that allows the disturbance of ovigerous females. Of these fishery regulations, elimination of the existing fishery practice of “baiting”, increasing the minimum size limit, and enacting landing quotas seem to have the most potential to enhance Florida’s spiny lobster population. Decreased mortality of undersized lobsters and an increase in the size of harvested lobsters would also help restoreFlorida’s historic lobster population size structure and the number of lobsters spawning each year. The findings of this study suggest that there are several viable methods to enhanceFlorida’sCaribbean spiny lobster population to provide for both sustained fishery landings and improved lobster population abundance.

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