The commercial lobster fishing industry is heavily regulated by The Bahamas Department of Fisheries, allowing only seasonal harvesting of the spiny lobster. Bahamian lobster fishermen are required to adhere to strict guidelines in order to maintain successful sustainability.
The government allows this fishing to take place only during the seasonal date parameters of August 1 through March 31 annually. The annual harvest itself must also be within the guidelines outlined by the Department of Fisheries. This includes a primitive fishing method that allows a diver to swim to the bottom of the ocean floor to harvest by hand, one lobster at a time. The only fishing or hunting equipment allowed is a small hook or a “Hawaiian sling” and spear. Traditional wooden traps marked by commercial buoys are also allowed but are seldom used. Furthermore, those types of traps are only allowed to be harvested by their owners themselves.
In order for the lobster to properly accumulate, habitats or condos as they are commonly called are deployed and hidden on the sea floor. This takes place mostly during the off season in key areas aiding the continuous effort towards sustainability. These condos also act as a safe haven for juvenile lobsters to thrive in and serve as protection from natural predators. These habitats ensure future lobster populations each year. The Bahamian Department of Fisheries also sets a minimum size requirement for in order to guarantee that no undersized lobsters are harvested.
It is the position of involved Bahamians that these habitats are the number one reason for this thriving fishery. The catch rate continues to steadily increase each year, and the average size of the lobster remains consistent.
The regulations of both size and season have created a solid platform which guarantees a long term fishery which is in no way jeopardized.
Bahamian law also dictates that once a habitat is deployed into the water, the right to harvest them is open to all fellow Bahamians. This allows for equal opportunity to all Bahamian fishermen.
Visiting recreational sportsmen from other countries are only permitted 10 lobsters per boat, which must be harvested after having cleared Bahamian Customs and Immigration in addition to purchasing a Bahamian fishing license.
Based on current catch numbers, the Bahamian lobster fishing industry is thriving, and is in no way in danger of being overfished. This is solely due to the careful, highly regulated efforts made by the Bahamas Department of Fisheries and the strict adherence to the law by local fishermen.