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 — Southern New England
Picture of Lobster, American

Sustainability rating rating under review info

Sustainability overview

The Southern New England fishery is severely depleted and unlikely to recover under current management. A moratorium or drastic reduction of catches is recommended to allow the stock to recover. The fishery has been associated with entanglements and catches of endangered species such as the North Right whale and ghost fishing and therefore, requires improved management.


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

The Southern New England (SNE) stock is severely depleted and has record low abundance and recruitment due to environmental factors and fishing pressure. It is unlikely that the stock will recover under existing measures and a moratorium on the stock has been previously recommended.


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. Management in the Southern New England fishery is ineffective. Measures have been implemented to slow the decline of the stock, though these have been insufficient to rebuild the stock. 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. Further improved protection of the spawning stock, recruitment and recruitment forecasting is recommended. The fishery captures Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species e.g. the endangered North Atlantic Right whale. Though management measures have been implemented to improve this e.g. by using sustainably sourced bait, escape vents on traps, biodegradable panels and other management measures, more management is required to reduce the risk to ETP species.

Capture Information

The SNE lobster fishery has minimum and maximum landing sizes which are based on their size at sexual maturity. 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 north Atlantic right whale and humpback whales in buoy ropes which is of high conservation concern. The ratio of bait to catch lobster is high which is a potential conservation concern.




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)