As the lobster season is nearing its closure starting April 1 until June 30, the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) is cautioning fisherfolk against catching lobster during the period.
The closed season is to give lobsters a chance to breed and repopulate, and during this period, it is illegal to catch, buy or sell spiny lobsters.
Dr Gavin Bellamy, chief executive officer at the NFA, said persons could face hefty fines if caught with lobster during the closed season.
“First of all, that is fishing contrary to your licence. That is also fishing without a licence because you would not have a licence to catch lobster throughout that time. The penalties are about $3 million or two years imprisonment, and it can go higher,” he explained.
Bellamy noted that the closed season is to facilitate sustainability and ensure that “we will have a lobster sector going forward for decades”.
He said that the authority has a role to play in protecting the industry and promoting its longevity.
“Part of sustainability comes with the closed seasons. They allow for stock to replenish so when you go and fish the buried lobster and you fish during the closed season, you are destroying your industry. You are not helping yourself; you are only making your life worse. We want to encourage people, [through] education, to look at the big picture. You will have more lobster to catch next season if you allow them to reproduce,” he said.
Regardless of the season, the capture of buried lobster in Jamaica is illegal.
Dr Zahra Oliphant, principal director for the Fisheries Compliance Licensing and Statistics Division said the buried lobsters are those that carry eggs.
One lobster can carry hundreds of eggs at a time on its underbelly.
“Each buried lobster removed from Jamaica’s waters represents well over two million dollars of potential revenue from the industry,” she pointed out.
Persons are also being reminded that it is illegal to catch lobsters that are undersized.
“Once the length of the head is under three inches it is illegal to catch it. I am imploring the public that when the lobster season is open and you are going to get a plate of lobster if it is small, tell them you don’t want it,” she said.
Refusing to consume undersized lobsters is part of the active role people can play to help with the enforcement and protection of the industry.