Commercially important. Fisheries Importance:The statewide commercial catch of spiny lobsters is the second most valuable Florida shell fishery, second only to shrimp. Since 1970, the commercial catch has ranged without trend between 4.3 million - 7.9 million pounds per year (Muller 2003). Between 1987 - 2001, the commercial harvest of Panulirus argus in Florida totaled 94.6 million pounds, and was valued at $365.3 million. Most landings occur on the Gulf coast and in Monroe and Dade counties on the East coast. Generally less than 1.5 million pounds of spiny lobsters are landed outside the vicinity of the Florida Keys each year (Muller 2003), and this is reflected in the relatively low annual value of the spiny lobster catch to IRL counties. Commercial lobstermen using traps account for approximately 80% of the total catch, with recreational divers harvesting 20%. The 5 county area encompassing the IRL (Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties) accounted for 607,890 pound of the commercial harvest, which had a value of $2.3 million. This ranks the spiny lobster twenty-third in commercial value to IRL counties, and forty-fourth in pounds harvested. Figure 1 below shows the dollar value of the spiny lobster commercial fishery to IRL counties by year. The fishery ranged in value from a high of $260,838 in 2001, to a low of $68,113 in 1988. Brevard County accounted for the largest share of the catch at 53.3%, followed distantly by Martin (15.3%), St. Lucie (13.3%),Volusia (13.2%) and Indian River(4.9%) Counties. Recreational Fishery: Beginning in 1991, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began utilizing mail surveys to estimate the recreational harvests of spiny lobster by recreational fishers during the 2-day mid-summer sport season, and the regular season, which opens in early August and runs through late March. In a typical year, the recreational harvest of spiny lobsters averages 20 - 22% of the commercial catch with approximately 2 million pounds of lobster harvested (Eaken 2001). Harvest regulations for spiny lobsters state the carapace must be longer than 3 inches as measured from the groove between eyes to the end of carapace. Recreational harvesting requires a saltwater fishing license. Recreational anglers must measure lobsters in the water and immediately release undersized animals and females with eggs. The bag limit in most areas is 6 lobsters per person per day.
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