BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
COMMERCIAL fisherman David Rose believes that a two-month delay in opening of the lobster season could result in the harvesting of a million pounds more of lobster in the Bahamas.
Because lobster grows most during the summer, Mr Rose said the creatures would have a longer growth period if the season opened in October instead of August.
“Lobster spawn at Little Bank Bahama six or seven months of the year, depending on the temperature. The season is far too short for the closed season. You can catch lobster spawning as early as March,” he said.
The lobster season runs from August 1 to March 31 and Mr Rose said it was lengthened to keep up with international competition.
In 2012-2013, the traditional seasonal harvest for lobster-crawfish by Bahamian fishermen was projected around five to five and a half million pounds. But it is estimated that an additional two to two and a half million are illegally harvested by poachers, putting the harvest at around nine million.
Mr Rose, a commercial fisherman for 40 years, warned: “What we really ought to have is a season that opens in October and closes the end of February. These are very difficult decisions to make but they are absolutely necessary for the future of the resource, and the government must look at it closely.”
Lobster feed most during the summer, he said. “They are nocturnal feeders and walk at night with the current going onto the bank to feed on clams and other little creatures, and cockleshells.
“The growth in the period is very important because they grow rapidly and moult during the summer more than in the winter.”
He explained: “The lobster come out their shell and leave it behind. Some consume part of their shell to re-absorb the calcium, and the new skin, which looks just like the original shell, then hardens - that’s when they get bigger,” he said.
Mr Rose believes that an October season would allow 60 days more growth time.
“Because we catch about 16 million lobsters a year, which works out to be three to the pound (of the right size lobster of five to seven ounces on the international market); if all of those 16 million lobsters gained one ounce that would be 16 million ounces, which turns out to be one million more pounds of lobster in October,” Mr Rose said.
The legal size is six inches tail. By opening the season in August, Mr Rose said lobster are smaller and many are still under the legal harvest size.
Mr Rose said the use of compressors to harvest lobster was illegal in the 1960s through the early 1980s. The law was changed after Bahamian fishermen complained to the government.
Mr Rose believes that the government should incorporate it in the Fisheries law, one that is similar to the Snook in the Florida. He said brood stock lobster, which are very large and have more eggs, are protected in the US for reproduction.