Lobster Tagging

CALobster Collaborative Fishery Research: Tag-Recapture of Spiny Lobster at the Northern Channel Islands

Researcher inserting floy tag

This project was developed in collaboration with Santa Barbara lobster fishermen, California Fish and Game biologists and the Lenihan Lab at UC Santa Barbara. The framework for this program was developed through focused discussion and field-based collaboration that dates to Fall 2003. Fieldwork for this project began in earnest during Septmeber 2006 when the Lenihan Lab, guided by partners in the commercial fishery, placed commercial style traps at sites inside, adjacent and far (~2km) from four state marine reserves (SMR's) at the Northern Channel Islands. Since that time, intensive trapping efforts have continued on a seasonal basis.

The traps used in this study are standard 3'x 4'x 18" commercial traps (2"x4" wire mesh) with the escape ports closed. This trap design allows for a possible future transition to an industry-based monitoring of this resource, should the interest develop. In addition to these standard traps, a number of traps with fine mesh (3/4") are deployed to capture smaller juveniles.

As traps are sampled, each animal receives an individually-numbered tag and the following data are recorded for each lobster: the tag number, exact location of capture (GPS coordinates), sex, length, reproductive status and physical condition. The tags used are intramuscular "T-bar" tags that are inserted into muscle underlying a thin membrane between the tail and carapace on the ventral (bottom) side of each animal. This tag location allows tags to persist through 2-3+ molt cycles. Click here for a photo of tagged lobster.

The lead field biologist and contact person for this project is Matt Kay (kay@lifesci.ucsb.edu).

Research Objectives

This project addresses a series of focused research goals that support the broader CALobster mission of improving fishery mangement through collaboration. The immediate research goals are to:

What to do if you catch a tagged lobster

Participation in this study is completely voluntary. Should you catch a tagged lobster and choose to participate, we ask that you measure its carapace length (in millimeters!), record its sex, GPS coordinates where it was caught, nearest landmark where caught and the tag number, and report this information at the telephone number listed on the tag. Please leave your contact information so that we can reach you with questions and any lottery reward information.

Close up view of floy tag

If you are unable to measure the carapace length in millimeters, please preserve the carapace (if possible, feezing OK) for pick-up by CALobster. The tag number is printed on the base of each tag, and often times this portion of the tag becomes withdrawn into the animal. If this is the case, gently tug the tag outward until the number is visible. Often times divers don't notice the tag until theay are home or far from their dive site(s), and therefore can't be sure about where the animal was caught. That's OK - the tag still contains valuable information on growth (if we can measure the lobster) and possibly location, depending on your dive day. Finally, there is no need to release legal lobsters - eat them! Benefits of participation include small tag rewards (ie T-shirt or hat) and possible entry into a prize lottery (funds still being sought!). More importantly, you will (or already did) contribute to a fishery-based study that might ultimately serve the sustainability of this resource and its fishery. Thanks and happy hunting / fishing.


Matt Kay
Phone: (805) 893-5054, (805) 284-4459
Email: kay@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Project timeline

Trapping activities started in 2006-07 and are ongoing.


The California Environmental Quality Initiative
California Ocean Protection Council