Lobster, American

Homarus americanus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Trap
Capture area — North West Atlantic (FAO 21)
Stock area — USA
Stock detail — Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in the Gulf of Maine
Picture of Lobster, American

Sustainability rating rating under review info

Sustainability overview

Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank fisheries are neither overfished or undergoing overfishing. Management addresses most concerns related to the lobster stocks though there are issues related to bycatch and ecosystem management and ghost fishing. This includes a significant number of entanglements of the IUCN endangered north Atlantic right whale in buoy ropes which is of high conservation concern.


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 400 m, 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 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 lobsters weighhing 20 kg and over 1m long! They eat a range of species including crabs, echinoderms, mussels, molluscs and are preyed upon when young but predation rates decrease with age. They can also be cannibals!

Stock information

Stock Area


Stock information

Lobsters in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank are assessed as one stock. Abundance is currently at its highest in the time series and recruitment has been increasing since 1997. Abundance is well above target reference points. Effort levels across the regions are very high and further increase in exploitation is not advised. Overfishing is not occurring.


The management body in the 0-3 mile area from the shore is managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the 3-200 mile area is managed by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which manages the lobster fishery in federal waters (3-200 miles from shore), both organisations are legislated by the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act. The American stock is divided into seven lobster conservation management areas. The US fishery is managed under the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) which includes common management measures: minimum/maximum size limits, trap limits, closed seasons, prohibition of retaining v-notched of egg-bearing females, gear modifications (escape ports and biodegradable panels) and a trap consolidation/transferability program. The fishery does capture Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species and therefore has implemented measures such as escape vents on traps, biodegradable panels, closed seasons to reduce the risk presented to ETP species. However, these measures are still insufficient and more needs to be done to reduce this impact. The fishery is heavily reliant on bait which is a concern for the ecosystem, though this bait is sustainably sourced.

Capture Information

Minimum landing size is dependent management area (8.26cm and 17cm carapace length (CL), i.e. the length between the back of the eye socket and the most posterior edge of the shell. The fishery uses traps to catch lobsters which are limited by size and have escape vents and biodegradable panels to reduce their impact on undersized lobsters, bycatch species, habitats and reduce the risk of ‘ghost’ fishing. There have also been a significant number of incidences of entanglements of the IUCN endangered northern Atlantic right whale and humpback whales in buoy ropes in the American fishery, which is of high conservation concern. The ratio of bait to catch is estimated at 1.5:1 which is potentially a cause for concern, though GBK and GOM fisheries source sustainable bait.




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


Page 243 of Biology of the Lobster Homarus Americanus


http://www.seafoodwatch.org//m/sfw/pdf/reports/l/mba_seafoodwatch_americanlobster_canadareport.pdf (SFW report)