Closed season for lobster, a landmark step towards responsible fishing in Central America

Simultaneous closed season enforced in the Central American Caribbean to protect spiny lobster

For the first time in the Central American Caribbean waters, there will be a ban on lobster fishing during the species’ reproductive season.

Beginning March 1st and ending on June 30th, lobster fishing will be suspended from Belize to Panama. This regional ban responds to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Integration Policy and the ordinance OSP-02-09 for the “Regional Regulation of Caribbean Lobster Fishing (Panulirus argus)”, issued by the Organization for Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector (OSPESCA) and signed by the governments of the isthmus on May 21, 2009.

Fishing and aquaculture authorities in the Central American countries will ensure that ship-owners, fishermen, and business owners present – at the latest, three days from the first day of the ban – their inventory of available lobster. Authorities will check on inventories, make inspections, and cancel industrial and artisanal fishing ship departures to ensure that the established closed season is respected.

The Central American Caribbean waters sustain an important fishery and are fundamental for the reproductive health of this species, which has been systematically overexploited.

The lobster fishery is the backbone of the fishing economy in the Caribbean.  However, in recent years, the dwindling catch has both governments and fishermen worried. Agreeing to a regional closed season on lobster is an important step in guaranteeing the future availability of this shared natural resource.

“This regional closed season is an important step for the protection of the most valuable fishing resource in the region, but it is also a clear sign of the regional and national commitment with the conservation of marine ecosystems. WWF celebrates this first regional closed season, congratulating the governments and is proud to have been part of this Central America effort,” said Bessy Aspra, WWF Fisheries Officer.

WWF collaborates with governments, private sector, and fishermen to ensure the viability of lobster populations and promoting responsible fishing through adoption of Better Fishing Practices and technical-scientific studies for ecosystem based fisheries management that have helped reach policy decisions like the ordinance reached for the regulation of lobster fisheries. 

Notes for editors and journalists:

On May 21 2009 the governments of the region signed in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, the Ordinance OSP-02-09 for the “Regional Regulation of Caribbean Lobster Fishing (Panulirus argus)”, in the context of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Integration Policy. The ordinance recommends countries adopt a regional closed season during four months, from March 1st to June 30th, respecting the species reproductive season.

Responsible Lobster Fisheries

WWF is working with governments and fishermen in the challenge for the conservation and responsible fisheries management through ecosystem based technical-scientific studies and the adoption of better fishing practices, in accord with FAO’s Responsible Fisheries Conduct and regional fishing policy promoted by OSPESCA. Good fishing practices for lobster include the use of lobster traps with a escape opening of 2? for juveniles, the return of female carrying eggs lobsters, the prohibition on lobster diving, the minimum lobster size of tails of or longer than 140 millimeters and the ban during the reproductive season.


The Organization of Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector (OSPECA) promotes the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture within the context of regional Central American integration. It defines and approves regional fishing and aquaculture policies, strategies and projects. It was established in 1995 by fishing authorities of the region in recognition of the shared and migratory nature of the fishing resources of its jurisdictional waters.


System for Central American Integration (SICA) constitutes the institutional framework of regional Central American integration. It was created by the governments of Belize Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. It was established in 1991 and its goal is to achieve Central American integration for it to become of region of Peace, Liberty, Democracy, and Development all sustained by respect and promotion of human rights.


WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

For more information on WWF’s work in the Mesoamerican Reef, please visit: