California Department of Fish and Wildlife

California Spiny Lobster Stock Assessment

Spiny lobster shares a crevice with an equally spiny sea urchin.
CDFW photo by Derek Stein

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) manages the commercial and recreational fisheries for California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus). CDFW has identified spiny lobster as its number one priority among the invertebrate species for developing a Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The information provided from a stock assessment is one of the key components needed to develop a FMP.

CDFW's biologists work to maintain a healthy, sustainable spiny lobster resource while maintaining access to lobster for commercial and recreational harvest. Stock assessments provide CDFW with the information necessary to make sound decisions about managing the fishery. This stock assessment describes the past and current status of the lobster resource in California, and attempts to predict how the lobster stock will respond to current and future management options. A variety of information and data are plugged into the model(s) used to generate a stock assessment. Through a stock assessment scientists attempt to estimate the amount of lobster in a stock and the rate of fishing mortality (or harvest). These are known as reference points. If the available data is limited the results of the stock assessment may not provide all the desired reference points.

The CDFW California spiny lobster stock assessment was peer reviewed by a technical panel in summer, 2011. Below you will find links to the associated documents:

Technical Review Panel Report

On August 16-17, 2011 CDFW assembled a Technical Review Panel (TRP) in La Jolla to peer review the draft California spiny lobster stock assessment that was prepared by CDFW marine biologist Dr. Doug Neilson in collaboration with Dr. Ernesto Chavez from Mexico. The TRP consisted of three recognized authorities in population modeling: Dr. Jason Cope and Dr. Alec MacCall from the National Marine Fisheries Service and Dr. Yong Chen from the University of Maine. Their deliberations and conclusions were independent of CDFW. The review meeting was open to the public, and nine scientists and fishermen chose to attend the 2-day session. The TRP spent an additional day compiling their report on the stock assessment.

The TRP's report emphasized that the data available on the lobster population in the Southern California Bight supports CDFW’s conclusion that the fishery is relatively stable, and that there is a low risk of overexploitation in the near future. The increasing use of hoop nets in the recreational fishery, and increased commercial fishing effort through permit transfers could pose a challenge to the future management of spiny lobster. However, sufficient time is available to improve data collection and assessment methods and make any management changes that might be required. Currently, reference points based on fishery removals are sufficient to inform the management of the State’s spiny lobster fisheries.