Today the Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Walton Brown JP, MP, announced a cap on the number of recreational lobster divers for the 2017-2018 season, which opens September 1. The number of licences will be capped at 500, approximately the same number of divers licensed for the 2016-17 season.
Divers who held a licence during the past 2016-17 season can be relicensed but must submit their catch data for the 2016-2017 season before they can renew. These lobster diver licences will be issued on a first come, first served basis. Licences will also be issued to first time recreational lobster divers until the cap is reached.
Bermuda’s lobsters are a resource shared between both the commercial fishermen and recreational lobster divers. Although commercial fishers operate in both deep and shallow water, the recreational divers can only catch lobsters in areas shallow enough for free-diving. While deepwater commercial catches have remained stable, catches from traps in shallow areas have been declining over the last four seasons in terms of both the total number of lobsters caught and also the number of lobsters caught per trap. The catch per trap is a standard measure that is an indication of the crustacean’s abundance.
The Marine Resources Board and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are concerned about the long term health of Bermuda’s lobster population, particularly in the shallow areas closer to shore. Additional data from recreational divers will allow a more complete picture of current lobster stocks, and inform regulations for coming seasons.
The Minister, while recognizing the importance of gathering data from recreational lobster divers, acknowledged that the April deadline to submit catch data was a new requirement and that some divers may not have noted this change in the conditions of their licence. This coming season, strict compliance is expected and fishers must report their season’s catch by April 30, 2018. Lobster divers will be expected to sign the 2017-18 terms and conditions document to indicate their commitment to abide by this deadline and the other terms and conditions.
Minister Brown added, “Going forward, I want to have broader consultation on the issue, and I encourage the formation of a lobster diver association to facilitate this. The number of lobster divers allowed in the fishery next season will be decided in consultation with stakeholders after an analysis of the 2017-2018 data. As Minister, I will consider proposed amendments to our fishery parameters, if any are required, in order to ensure a healthy fish stock.”
For more information on recreational lobster fishing licenses visit https://www.gov.bm/online-services/apply-recreational-lobster-diving-licence.