Extension / Sea Grant News

Fishermen gather data on lobster fishery

California spiny lobster (Palinurus interruptus). Credit: Magnus Kjærgaard in La Jolla, California.

California spiny lobster. Credit: Magnus Kjærgaard in La Jolla, California.

California’s spiny lobster is a delectable, highly mobile crustacean, worth about $13.7-million dockside in 2012, according to fisheries managers.

The lobster from the Golden State lacks the crushing, boxing-glove claws that so define the Maine lobster. Our spiny lobster is armored with two long, thick spiny antennae, hence its name.

Despite the spiny lobster’s value as a commercial fishery, and immense popularity as a recreational sport, fisheries scientists widely recognize that there are gaps in what is known about the species.

With support from Collaborative Fisheries Research West, California Sea Grant extension specialist Carolynn Culver is working with commercial lobster fishermen to develop and test new ways of collecting data for long-term, cost-effective fisheries management.

The project builds on an at-sea sampling program for the southern rock crab fishery that she and her co-investigator on the project Stephen Schroeter, a biologist at UC Santa Barbara, developed.

“The idea behind a collaborative at-sea sampling program is to engage fishermen in the process of data collection, as well as interpretation, thereby providing a more cost-effective means for obtaining information needed for management,” Culver said by email.

Below is a summary of her project work to date, with contact information for those who are interested in learning more.

Integrating Collaborative Data Collection with Management: A Lobster Fishery Test Case
R/OPCCFRW-2 Jul. 2012–Jun. 2014

Carolynn Culver, CASGEP, 805.893.4530, cculver@ucsd.edu
Stephen Schroeter, UCSB, 760,438.5953, schroter@lifesci.ucsb.edu
Caroline Pomeroy, CASGEP, 831.459.4173, cpomeroy@ucsd.edu
Doug Neilson, CDFW, 858.467.4229, Douglas.Neilson@wildlife.ca.gov

Could commercial lobster-trap fishermen help gather and interpret data for long-term, cost-effective fisheries management? This project addresses this question, building on an at-sea sampling program for the southern rock crab fishery that was developed by the project’s lead scientists. During the CFR West project’s first year, fishermen, scientists and managers worked together to develop and test protocols for collecting different types of data. They are also determining how to integrate those protocols with different kinds of commercial lobster fishing operations. In August 2013, the scientists reported that they were in the process of analyzing data collected during the previous fishing season (2012-13) to identify the types of data most needed for management (i.e., data that varies among fishing locations) and an associated sampling regime for the upcoming 2013-2014 lobster season that ensures scientific rigor while minimizing impacts on the program’s fishing partners. In addition, fishermen, scientists and managers involved in the project have been discussing ideas for storing and sharing data, and for continuing the program into the future. To help identify some options, the lead scientists have been gathering information on other similar fishermen-based data collection programs. Ultimately, the group will hold a workshop to share results and evaluate the program’s long-term feasibility.

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