The commercial harvest of the Florida Keys’ most lucrative sea creature Florida Lobster was up this year, but the price fishermen were paid was way down, they said. The recreational and commercial harvest of spiny lobster will close at midnight Thursday, March 31. The commercial harvest is expected to be about 5.9 million pounds, up about 500,000 pounds from last season, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fisheries biologist Tom Matthews. However, the price dropped significantly, with fishermen being paid as little as $13 to $14 a pound, compared to a maximum of $22 a pound last year, fishermen said. A robust Asian market has had spiny lobster prices skyrocketing in recent years.
The decrease in price has led to a greater need for law enforcement to ramp up its efforts in catching and successfully prosecuting poachers, fishermen said. The Florida Legislature passed a bill this past session that would make putting out Florida Lobster traps without certificates a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. Instead of robbing traps, unscrupulous fishermen are putting out more traps than they are legally allowed to. The legislation is awaiting the governor’s signature.