San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Central American lobsters get a break

A four-month ban on fishing of the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) in the Caribbean Sea, a first for Central America, went into effect on Monday, March 1.

Caribbean fishermen from Belize through Panama will not be allowed to fish the species from March 1 through June 30, a time span which corresponds to the breeding period of the lobster.

The suspension aligns with the “Regional Ordinance for the fishing grounds of Caribbean Lobster,” a regulation developed by the Central American Fishing and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA) and signed by Central American governments in May 2009.

According to the law, fishing and aquaculture authorities in the signatory countries are responsible for enforcing the ban.

In Costa Rica´s case, the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA), the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) and the Costa Rican Coast Guard are in charge of implementing the procedures laid out in the regulation and enforcing the ban.

Lobster fishing is an important trade for fishermen in Caribbean countries, providing vital economic and social opportunities to coastal communities. In recent years, catch numbers have been low, due in part to over-fishing and the use of destructive practices, such as dragnet fishing, in the region.

Allowing the spiny lobster sufficient time to reproduce every year, combined with more sustainable fishing practices, will help maintain the survival of the species and its ecosystem and increase catch numbers in coming years, said Bessy Aspra of the World Wildlife Foundation.

INCOPESCA began announcing the ban in Costa Rican daily newspapers, such as Al Día and La Nación, on Feb. 21.

José Centeno, a chief international representative for INCOPESCA, said the fishing institute and as well as the country´s fishermen are on board with the new rules.

“The fishermen understand that this is an important method to help recuperate a species that they depend on,” Centeno said. “It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure this regulation is enforced and the waters preserved.”

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