Lobster, American

Homarus americanus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Trap
Capture area — North West Atlantic (FAO 21)
Stock area — Canada
Stock detail — EEZ
Picture of Lobster, American

Sustainability rating rating under review info

Sustainability overview

Measures to mitigate the impact of fishing on the stock and bycatch generally relate to the species e.g. minimum landing sizes, vessels (e.g. permit limits), trap adaptations (e.g. to reduce the impact of fishing on bycatch). There have been a significant number of entanglements of the IUCN endangered north Atlantic right whale in buoy ropes which is of high conservation concern. Seasonal closures in the Canadian fishery do help to mitigate this issue. The ratio of bait is very high and more needs to be done to ensure that bait used is sustainably sourced.


The American lobster, cousin to the European lobster which frequents our coastline, is found from Labrador, Canada to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It inhabits rocky areas from the coastal fringe to depths of 400m, although high densities can be found on muddy sediments where burrows can be formed. It takes between 5 and 8 years for the American lobster to reach legal size. They commonly live for about 10 years but can live to ages older than us. American lobsters are the world’s heaviest known crustacean with records of individuals as heavy as 20kg and over 1m long! They eat a range of species including crabs, echinoderms, mussels, mollusks and are preyed on when young but predation rates decrease with age. They also can be cannibals!

Stock information

Stock Area


Stock information

Canada has the largest landings of American lobster in the world with increasing landings in recent years. Since the Canadian lobster fishery is so large, it is divided into around 40 areas called Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) to enable improved monitoring and management. Population size in each LFA varies dramatically: some have experienced persisting, high exploitation rates. However, some LFAs have decreased their fishing pressure to ensure sustainable exploitation. In some areas, landings are reliant on incoming new recruits, which is a worry because it means that there are few old, large lobsters which produce the most eggs and therefore makes the stock more vulnerable to overfishing. The stock is likely in a fully fished state, but in the absence of detailed stock assessment and target biological reference points, the true stock state and exploitation rate is unknown and the stock could potentially be overfished in some areas.


The lobster fishery is managed by the Canadian government. The effectiveness of management varies vastly depending on the area. Fishery-dependent data e.g. landings data are used to determine abundance and fishing mortality. There is a distinct lack of fishery-independent data e.g. at-sea monitoring in most LFAs which prevents accurate population estimations. Few LFAs adopt sufficient monitoring methods e.g. compulsory logbooks - thereby, reducing the accuracy of fishery-dependent data. Landings data don’t necessarily reflect the size of the population, rather how much the market demands. Management measures vary vastly between LFAs. Management measures include: licences, trap limits, fishing seasons, number of fishing days, lobster size restrictions, protection of egg bearing females and gear adaptations. LFA 41 has adopted a suite of extra management measures including 100% dockside monitoring, total allowable catch (TAC) quotas and Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS). However, in most cases, the effectiveness of management measures has not been evaluated.

Capture Information

Minimum landing size is dependent on area, and there is a ban on the landing of berried females and v-notched specimens. The fishery is limited by permits, number of traps, size of traps and traps must have escape hatches to reduce the capture of undersized lobsters and reduce ‘ghost’ fishing. There have been a significant number of incidences of entanglements of the IUCN endangered north Atlantic right whale and humpback whales in buoy ropes in the American fishery, which is of high conservation concern; however, seasonal closures in the Canadian fishery do help to mitigate this issue. The ratio of bait to catch is high and the sustainability of the bait sources are potentially a cause for concern.






http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/08/21/icesjms.fss143.full.pdf : Efficacy of conservation measures for the American lobster: reproductive value as a criterions

http://www.sealifebase.org/summary/Homarus-americanus.html American lobster

Page 243 of Biology of the Lobster Homarus Americanus https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=kJR0gSOOZB0C&pg=PA243&lpg=PA243&dq=homarus+americanus+spawning+summer&source=bl&ots=No5Or7-noq&sig=p9UDJt-4wclQQW_heIzdNWfoVNM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjb3-Xt3YbOAhUrBMAKHW9yBdIQ6AEIITAA#v=onepage&q=homarus%20americanus%20spawning%20summer&f=false


Seafood Watch Report - American lobster http://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/reports/l/mba_seafoodwatch_americanlobster_canadareport.pdf


Scientific review of the reference point thresholds prescribed in the draft Fishery Management Plan for California Spiny Lobster (Panulirus interruptus) http://www.oceansciencetrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Lobster-FMP-Scientific-Review-Report-6-9-15.pdf

Integrated Fisheries Management Plan - Lobster in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence http://www.glf.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Gulf/FAM/IMFP/2014-Lobster-Gulf-Region

http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/peches-fisheries/ifmp-gmp/maritimes/insholob-2011-eng.htm - Integrated Fishery Management Plan (Summary) Lobster Fishing Areas 27 - 38

ASSESSMENT OF LOBSTER (HOMARUS AMERICANUS) IN LOBSTER FISHING AREAS (LFA) 35-38 http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/SAR-AS/2013/2013_023-eng.pdf

https://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/north-west-atlantic/iles_de_la-madeleine_lobster - Iles-de-la-Madeleine Lobster


http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ER.MRN.PTMR.ZS - Marine protected areas (% of territorial waters)