Lobster Fishing

Lobster tools and technology

Chilean fishermen with lobsters

Lobster fishing is part of the larger fishing industry. It uses tools such as boats, navigation, and other fishing technology. Fishing technology specific to the lobster industry generally includes traps, either rectangular-shaped or half-cylinders, once made from oak (coated with tar), but are now primarily made from wire mesh covered with a thick layer of plastic to reduce oxidation of the metal. Lobster traps, or pot warp, are connected to each other and to a buoy with rope. Sometimes there is a floater called a toggle tied between the trap and the buoy to keep the rope tight so as to reduce the possibility of the rope wrapping around rocks on the bottom and becoming stuck. New laws are in the works to try and protect whales by making float “rope” usually used as ground lines between trawls and on deeper water single traps to keep the rope floating a little bit above the ground to prevent it from snagging up on rocks and the bottom, illegal. It is unknown how much protection this will provide whales as the majority of dead whales found in the ocean were killed by large tankers like oil barges[citation needed].

Grand Manan lobster fishing boats in North Head Harbor, Canada

Lobster traps must have in it a 23811inch-sized escape hole to allow under-sized lobsters to escape the trap. Every trap must also have a “self-destruction device” to allow its door to fall open after it has been out too long. Traps are sunk to the ocean bottom with weights and are baited with dead fish. Attached to every trap is a buoy labelled with the license number and name or initials of the fisherman who has set the trap.

Using lobster traps allows a fisher to harvest far more lobsters in the same amount of time than does scuba diving to catch lobster by hand. A fisher with one boat can set, pull, and reset well over 100 traps a day, making trapping a much more efficient means than diving. With the use of traps, a fisher could collect anywhere from 100 to 1000 lobsters per day. Moreover, using traps is not held back by some of the limits of scuba diving – water depth, the time a diver can remain underwater, and the water conditions during diving.

Target species and methods

Target species



Target species details



Homarus americanus

(American lobster)


Traps, large stationary nets or barrages or pots, are gears in which the fish are retained or enter voluntarily and will be hampered from escaping.

Pot vessels

True lobsters are entirely marine. They inhabit shallow nearshore rocky or reef environments, rarely to 1000 metres depth. They are cryptic, hiding in rock crevices during the day and coming out at night to feed. American lobster is a sublittoral species to 480 m depth, most common in coastal waters between 4 and 50 m. Hard bottom (hard mud, rocks).

Spiny lobster

Panulirus argus

(Caribbean spiny lobster)


Traps, large stationary nets or barrages or pots, are gears in which the fish are retained or enter voluntarily and will be hampered from escaping.

Pot vessels

Inhabits shallow waters, occasionally down to 90 m depth, perhaps even deeper. Found among rocks, on reefs, in eelgrass beds or in any habitat that provides protection. The species is gregarious and migratory.

Spiny lobster

Panulirus argus

(Caribbean spiny lobster)

Gill and trammel nets

Gillnets and entangling nets are strings of single, double or triple netting walls, vertical, near by the surface, in midwater on on the bottom, in which fish will gill, entangle or enmesh.


Inhabits shallow waters, occasionally down to 90 m depth, perhaps even deeper. Found among rocks, on reefs, in eelgrass beds or in any habitat that provides protection. The species is gregarious and migratory.

North America

Lobster trawler off the coast of Hyannis, Massachusetts

See also: North American lobster industry

Areas in North America where lobster fishing is common include southern California, New England, portions of the Caribbean Sea, and the Canadian Maritimes.

In the United States, as with all U.S. fishing industries, individual states manage lobster fishing within their three-mile boundaries. In Maine, this job is done by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Since lobsters caught near shore and offshore look exactly the same when they are loaded onto the dock, it is important that interstate and federal regulations complement each other. An organization called the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, formed in 1942, helps to do this. A compact of 15 eastern seaboard states, the Commission has three representatives from each state. These people include the Director of the state’s marine resources management agency, a state legislator, and a fisheries representative appointed by the Governor. The member states are responsible for implementing the Commission Plan. The federal partners in lobster management are also part of the Commission process and work to complement the states efforts. Through the auspices of the National Marine Fisheries Service, federal regulations are adopted for lobster harvesting between three and 200 miles from shore, the United States’ “economic zone”. Currently, the American lobster is managed under Amendment 4.5 of the Commission’s American Lobster Management Plan.

Lobster boat at Camden, Maine

Commercial U.S. fishers, while not bound to abide by any particular legal quota, must fish during lobster season, which starts on the first Wednesday in October through to the first Wednesday after the 15th of March. All commercial fishers must also keep a log of the exact number of legal and illegal lobster they catch.

In Maine, lobsters can only be legally caught in lobster traps, also called pots. Inshore lobstermen have a limit of 800 pots per license, and regularly pull between 200-400 pots per day. Lobster caught in this region must be fished for only between sunrise and sunset, although this regulation is rarely enforced in the hour before dawn. Commercial lobstering season is year-round, with the exception of some self-managed zones around several islands off the Maine coast. Offshore lobstermen on the Eastern seaboard until recently had no trap limits, and traditionally fished between 2,000 and 3,000 pots per boat. Inshore lobster boats on the eastern seaboard range from 22-42 feet on average, while offshore boats are considerably larger. The Maine lobster industry harvests more lobster annually than any other state in New England.

A traditional Maine lobster boat, used to haul and maintain the lobster traps.

In southern California, lobster fishing for California spiny lobster is lucrative due to a huge market demand for lobster. Most commercial fishers use lobster traps. Their use is considered to be better than other collection techniques.

Recreational lobster fishers in California must abide by a legal catch limit of seven lobsters per day and a minimal catch size of 3inch long body measured from the eye socket to the edge of the carapace. The sport season for California spiny lobster starts on the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October through to the first Wednesday after the 15th of March.

In South West Nova Scotia (District #34), Canada, there is a limit of 375 pots per boat, and the season runs from the last Monday of November to the end of May. There is no limit to the number of lobster caught per trap, but there are size restrictions. This restrictions include returning undersized lobsters, called “tinkers”[citation needed], to the water.

Outside North America

This section requires expansion.

Off the Atlantic Coast of Mauritania, Africa.

Off the Caribbean Coast of Los Roques archipelago, Venezuela, South America.

Off the south coast of Iceland, Europe biggest lobster fishing towns in Iceland are Hfn and Vestmannaeyjar.

See also

Lobster trap


^ FAO. Lobster pot fishing.

^ FAO. Spiny lobster fishing with trap.

^ FAO. Spiny lobster gillnets and trammel nets fishing.

External links

The Lobster Fishery of Maine by John N. Cobb; Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission, Vol. 19, Pages 241-265, 1899; from Project Gutenberg

Marine Fishing FAQ Written and sponsored by Kaitlyn Rumbolt

Dangers of Entanglement During Lobstering, a publication from the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

UNH Lobster Research: Monitoring The Offshore Lobster Fishery (lobsters.unh.edu)

Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association

Industrial Fishing Department, Profortis International Ltd, England , United Kingdom.

Lobster Conservation

History of Lobster Fishing and Processing

Lobstering History


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