Government will implement a cap of 450 recreational lobster divers will be in place for the 2018-19 season.

According to Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, the cap is being reduced from 500 last year, when only 412 lobster divers applied.

While the Department of Environment and Natural Resources remains concerned about the long-term sustainability of Bermuda’s lobster population, particularly in shallow areas closer to shore, the cap on lobster divers permitted has been lowered.

A spokesperson said: “Bermuda’s lobsters are a resource shared between both the recreational lobster divers and the commercial lobster trap fishermen.

“Although commercial fishers operate in both deep and shallow water, the recreational divers can only catch lobsters in areas shallow enough for free-diving.

“This past season was the fifth consecutive season of below average commercial catches.

“While the number of lobsters caught per trap in the inshore areas was slightly up from the previous season, it was still 19 per cent lower than the 15-year average.

“The catch per trap is a standard measure that is an indication of the lobsters’ abundance.”

The lobster season opens on September 1. Licences will be issued on a first come, first served basis as of August 6.

The deadline to report catch data, including nil catches, for the 2017-18 season was April 30.

The Ministry said divers licensed last season will only be able to relicense if they have already submitted their statistics to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The spokeswoman said 93 divers had not submitted any statistics.

Minister Brown said: “The number of lobster divers and commercial trap fishermen allowed in the fisheries during the upcoming season was decided in consultation with stakeholders after an analysis of the 2017-18 data.

“In addition to the reduction in lobster diver licenses, the commercial trap fishery will have one less participant, meaning that there will be 27 trap fishermen this season.

“These numbers will be reviewed and adjusted as necessary with the sustainability of the fisheries in mind.”

For more information on recreational lobster fishing licenses, visit www.gov.bm/online-services/apply-recreational-lobster-diving-licence.

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