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Lobster, American

Homarus americanus

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Pot
Capture area - North West Atlantic (FAO 21)
Stock area - USA EEZ
Stock detail - Southern New England
Certification -
Fish type - Shellfish

Sustainability rating To be Assessed

Sustainability overview

The majority of American lobster fisheries are not overfished but fishing is close to the maximum level of fishing effort. However, the fishery in Southern New England is currently depleted and possibly overfished. There is also an issue with right whale entanglement in lobster pots in the American EEZ, and this is a species listed as endangered by IUCN. Management is inadequate, as it has not addressed the marine mammal bycatch issue or been wholly successful in addressing overfishing in certain areas.


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 400m, 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 and enter the fishery. American lobsters are the world's heaviest known crustacean with records of individuals as heavy as 20kg and over 1m long! As with the European lobster, females store sperm following mating for fertilisation at a later date, and can fertilise several batches of eggs from one mating.

Stock information

Stock area

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Stock information
The Southern New England Stock is fished in the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The stock has seen a sharp decrease in the past decade. From a peak abundance of 45 million lbs in 1997, the current estimates state that abundance is the lowest in the time series and recruitment has remained low since 1998. There have been declines in effort in recent years, but there is some conflicting evidence as to whether the stock is currently being overfished, with ASMFC stating that the stock is not currently overfished but NOAA quoting to the contrary. It would appear that the Southern New England lobster stock is depleted and possibly experiencing overfishing.


Capture information

Minimum landing size is dependent on area of management and is currently between 8.3cm and 8.7cm carapace length (CL), i.e. the length between the back of the eye socket and the most posterior edge of the shell. The average size of landed lobsters is 8.9cm CL, showing a reliance on annual recruitment to the fishery. Pots/traps are used, and their size is limited with escape hatches built in, to reduce the capture of undersized lobsters and reduce '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 in the American fishery, which is of high conservation concern. The ratio of bait to catch is estimated at 1.5:1 which is potentially a cause for concern, depending on the sustainability of the bait source.

Read more about capture methods

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