California Department of Fish and Wildlife

DFG Joins Forces with Universities, Organizations, Fishermen and Volunteers to Study Lobster

Dr. Kevin Hovel, project lead, and Amalia DeGrood of SDSU recording data from a re-captured lobster off Point Loma

Dr. Kevin Hovel, project lead, and Amalia DeGrood of SDSU recording data from a re-captured lobster off Point Loma

by Travis Buck, Environmental Scientist, and Doug Neilson, Environmental Scientist

In 2011 and 2012, DFG, the San Diego Oceans Foundation, San Diego State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography teamed up with lobster fishermen and volunteers to tag and monitor thousands of lobster in Southern California.

This project, whose formal title is the Baseline Characterization of California Spiny Lobsters, is one of 10 projects in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program funded by the Ocean Protection Council through California Sea Grant. The South Coast MPA Baseline Program is part of a larger effort in which DFG collaborates with the Monitoring Enterprise - a program of the California Ocean Science Trust - to develop and implement impartial, scientifically rigorous and cost-effective MPA monitoring along the California coast.

Divers, hoopnetters and commercial lobstermen who report tagged lobster play a vital role in this project. Tag recovery information helps scientists to examine current levels of lobster abundance, size composition of the population, movement and growth of individuals over time.

A unique identification code (tag number) and phone number or website is printed on most of the colorful plastic tags, which are inserted into the underside or back of the lobster. It is important to record:

  • Date
  • Location where the lobster was caught (GPS coordinates are best, but distance to a recognized landmark will work if you don't have GPS)
  • Carapace length of the lobster (to the nearest millimeter if possible)
  • Tag number

All four pieces of information—date, location, length, and tag number—are important to report from a tagged lobster.

Lobsters may be brought to the surface to measure. If the lobster is under legal size and is tagged, quickly record the number on the tag and immediately release the lobster. No undersized lobster, even if it is tagged, may be brought aboard a boat, placed in any type of receiver, or retained in any manner. Do not remove tags from any undersized lobsters.

To find out more about the project, visit the Ocean Spaces website. To report a lobster tagged with a blue, yellow, or green tag, please visit the San Diego Oceans Foundation website or call (619) 523-1903.

Blue and yellow tags attached to the undersides of spiny lobster
Blue and yellow tags attached to the undersides of spiny lobster

Return to the October 2012 Issue