An extensive public awareness initiative is underway to help leisure Florida Keys travelers and residents have an enjoyable, safe and non-impacting experience during the upcoming two-day lobster sport season (Wednesday, July 28, and Thursday, July 29) and the traditional lobster harvesting season that begins Aug. 6.
A dedicated website, KeysLobsterSeason.com, includes interactive videos with need-to-know dive and boating safety tips, up-to-date rules, regulations for lobster hunting within the Keys such as daily limits, and correct harvesting techniques.
It also stresses avoiding prohibited, no-take zones protected within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary boundaries.
Locally dubbed “mini-season” because of its short time duration, the statewide two-day harvesting timeframe begins at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and ends at midnight the following day.
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Regular lobster season begins at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 6 and continues through March 31, 2022.
Newly created public safety awareness messages emphasize the importance of catching lobsters responsibly and protecting their habitats, encourage boating and sport diving safety, and convey resource-protection rules, regulations and other measures.
The communications strategy is a collaborative effort with a task force of representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Keys tourism council, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, municipalities and other tourism representatives.
According to FWC officials, the most important resource and safety protective measures include:
- Measure each lobster correctly, and measure while still in the water. Carapace (hard part of shell) must measure greater than three inches. If a lobster is too small, it must not be harvested.
- Use a dive flag. Put it up when diving and take it down when underway. Divers must stay within 300 feet of their dive flag (100 feet if in a channel).
- Bag limit is six lobsters per person, per day, all day in Monroe County (differs from other areas of Florida where 12 per person, per day is permitted). No multi-trips in the same day.
- Check and replenish all necessary boat safety gear.
- Idle speed when within 100 yards of a boat displaying a dive flag.
- It is prohibited to touch coral, bump corals with dive fins, stand on coral or anchor a boat on coral.
“When you come to the Florida Keys for lobster season, whether it’s the two-day sport season or the regular lobster season, we want everyone to have a good time and enjoy it in a safe manner,” said Officer Bobby Dube of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Most importantly, we want to make sure you’re protecting the seagrass, the sea bottom and our coral reef tract while you’re diving or snorkeling in the Keys.
“One of the reasons we bring extra FWC officers down here for the lobster season here in the Keys is that we have a lot of people who don’t abide by the laws,” Dube said. “We got people that go out and multi-trip, which means they are making multiple trips back and forth to shore to exceed the six-lobster bag limit per person, each day.
“The most common violation that our officers see is somebody improperly measuring a Florida lobster,” Dube added.