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European lobster (Homarus gammarus)

19.03.2013 // European lobster is found along the coast in the temperate region of the North-East Atlantic, extending from the warm waters of Morocco into the colder waters around the Arctic Circle in northern Norway.

The species is also found in the Mediterranean Sea, but not in the Baltic. The northernmost self-sustaining population is found in Tysfjord (68°15’N) in northern Norway.

The lobster fishery in Norway has traditions that can be traced back to the 1600’s. Available statistics describe a national fishery fluctuating around an annual average of 900 thousand individuals from 1820 to 1920, corresponding to about 500 tons. The landings rose sharply in the early 1930s to a peak of 1 300 tons in 1932 (2.8 million individuals). In the following decades, the landings varied around 700 to 800 tons yearly.

Norway was at that time one of the principal countries supplying lobster to the European market, accounting for 24 % of total landings, and the lobster fishery was thus of high economic value for many coastal communities. However, the landings fell dramatically from 1960, and are currently of about 30 tons annually. Currently, the total annual landings of European lobster vary between 2000 and 2500 tons, mainly captured in Ireland and Great Britain. Decades with low landings forced many lobster dealers in Norway to close down, and since the 1990s, annual registrations probably reflect maximum capacity of the few remaining dealers rather than total catches. The Norwegian lobster fishery can indeed be regarded as marginal, and based on a stock that has been overexploited for a long time.

Closed seasons, minimum legal size and other protective measures

A closed season was introduced already in 1893. For a long time the management legislation in the Norwegian lobster fishery was limited to closed seasons and minimum legal size. Based on thorough efforts, where the object was to build up the stock of lobster along the Norwegian coastline, it was in 2008 established stricter regulation provisions in this fishery. The catching season was reduced and set to last from 1 October to 30 November in the southern part of Norway, and from 1 October to 31 December north of Sogn og Fjordane county. The minimum legal size in Norwegian waters is now 25 cm total length (90 mm carapace length), and it is prohibited to catch lobster with roe. It was in 2008 also inducted a limitation for numbers of lobster pots per boat and per person. Lobster pots with minimum 60 mm escape vents are the only allowed fishing gear for catching lobster. There is also a new demand for using escape vents of minimum 80 mm in crab pots, and other fisheries by fish traps is restricted for preserve lobster. Landing of lobster caught as by-catches in other fishing gears such as crab pots, gill nets etc. is not allowed, hence the lobster must be released back into the sea.

Marine Protected Areas for lobster

In 2006 it was established four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for lobster at the coast of Skagerrak. In these areas, that have been closed for fishery, it has been registered an astonishing positive increase in the occurrence of lobster. The last years, it has also been observed a positive trend for the occurrence of juvenile lobsters and the stock generally along the Norwegian coast.

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