Name of fishery Spiny lobster fishery   Priority-1 species   

Target species Panulirus homarus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Location INDIA-South west coast and South east coast (Kanyakumari district) 

Fishing Area FAO 51

Fishery history: (How long has the fishery been in operation? Describe changes in the fishery over time)

In India, for the first time an organized exploitation of lobster resources started in 1956-57 along the south west coast. Studies on Kanyakumari lobster fishery was initiated during 1957 by Marine Biological Station located at Cape Comorin. In the year  1962 ,a total of 53 t of lobsters were processed and exported to America and later years lobsters were also exported to Japan.CMFRI investigated lobster resources exploited by traditional fishing sector operated by catamarans and canoes along Colachel and Muttom in Kanyakumari  district during the period 1958- 1962. The lobster fishery monitoring studies by reearchers from 1957 to 1966 revealed that 1962 onwards the catch was constituted by juveniles (31.2 %) , berried females (40-45 %) .The study further showed a steady decline of lobsters from a maximum of 80,0000 numbers in 1956-57 to 20,0000 numbers in 1963-64. This prompted the researchers to impose certain restrictions for the lobster fishing and a draft notification and license were prepared and issued to Department of Fisheries, Govt.of Madras in 1965 through the order No.K.Dis.281 B/66 dt.14.06.1965.In 1967, researchers were on the opinion to implement minimum size limit to catch. Stock assessment studies conducted revealed favourable exploitation ratio  threby suggested exploitation can be further increased without adverse effects on the fishery.

The skilled skin-divers of traditional fishermen were harvested lobsters using traps made of Palmyra leaf in the above period during November to March. In 1970, bottom set gill net was introduced for catching lobsters at Muttom and since then fishing was conducted year round . The annual lobster landings in Muttom and Colachel has been declined  from 39 t observed during 1958-59 to 7.7 t in 2006. 

CMFRI‘s studies  revealed that lobster stock  from south off Trivandrum was 500 t in 1970’s. In 1985, trammel nets introduced for lobster fishing along the coast. During 1985 to 1999, lobster catch from Kanyakumari and adjoining fishing area were ranged from a minimum of 30.5 t in 1989 to a maximum of 52.7 t in 1985.the average weight of lobsters caught were 180 g in 1985 followed by 170 g in 1986-1987, 160 g in 1988 and 140 g in 1989 showing a strong evidence on  catching of small sized lobsters.

In 1987, large trawlers exploited deep sea lobster, Puerulus sewelli from offshore region along south west coast of India however witnessed a halt in 1990 due to large scale exploitation of the resources.  Literature shows that in 1991, lobster fishing season in Kanyakumari district were off six months duration, commenced by the middle of October and lasts till April.  In 1990,s heavy catch of spiny lobsters were reported from Enayam, Kadiapatanam, and Kanyakumari centre ,accounting > 5 t per year. The annual average landings from Manakudy and Colachel were 4 to 5 ton per year. The lobster catch was equally contributed by traps (40 %) and bottom set gill nets (40%), trammel nets (7%) and by hand picking (1%). During 1991, a total of 40 numbers of traps were operated at Enayam. The catch per trap was amounted to 1kg lobster. Other than trap fishing ,fishermen collect lobsters by hand picking also.  At Kanyakumari village, a total of 20 traps and 50 bottom set gill nets were operated for catching lobsters during the above fishing season. The annual lobster catch during the fishing season was amounted to 5.2 t. Traps and gill nets contributed 23 % and 77% respectively.In 1991, modern traps wer e introduced in Kanyakumari district. 

 Stuies shows ,over  the years, lobster fishery witnessed changes in fishing and utility pattern with the introduction of live export market, sea cage culture and increased consumption and demand from tourism sector 

Stock biology: Stock size, structure, biomass, status, trends in population abundance, life cycle, growth, reproduction, schooling behavior, etc.

The fishery from Muttom was studied for the period 2000-2004,kadiapatanam for the period2005,2006,2009 and 2010. Fishery studied from Chinnamuttom for the period 2009-10,2012-2016 and from Colachel from 2009-16.

Males and females  of P.homarus observed in commercial fishery at Muttom  belonged to the size range 80-246 mm and 98-300 mm in TL respectively. Berried females observed during  January-May , July- September and December .The size of berried lobsters were ranged from 150-300mm   (TL). Berried females were not found in the commercial catch at Chinnamuttom. Matured females were observed in the size range of 130-188 mm. At Colachel , size (TL) of P.homarus  males ranged  from : 105-250 mm , (W: 70-687 g) and females: 89-310 mm, (W: 78-950 g).Berried lobsters were formed 11.4% of total catch in the fishery for the period 2008-2016 .Females with berry was observed in the size range of 155-290 mm TL. At Kadiapatanam and Chinnamuttom, juvenile lobsters (<100g) are used for house hold consumption as well as bait for catching cuttle fishes. Trap fishing  preserve ecology and quality of habitat. 

Data on target species population:  What sort of stock assessment information exists for this fishery??? Is there a stock assessment? Is there catch per unit effort data? Landings data? Monitoring of biological indices? For how many years are data available? Who collects, manages, and stores the data? How are data collected?

Catch per unit effort , catch landed by  fishermen and biological data collected different period regularly and  analyzed .



Fishing ActivitiesMethods, gear, size/sex/season fished

Fishing methods

The traditional fishermen operate 3 m and 3.5 m (OAL) canoes and catamaran respectively using traps made of Palmyra leaf   as well as bottom set gill nets to catch lobsters. Lobsters are also caught directly by hand picking using lights occasionally. 

Trap fishing

The lobster traps are operated by skin divers within 0.5 km to 3 km area. A group of fishermen comprising 2 to 4 engaged in trap fishing. Among them one person set the trap while others assist him in setting the trap and rowing the boat or catamaran. The fishermen place the traps on the sea bottom near crevices in the rocky patches. During the early hours on the subsequent day, fishermen ventures to the trap site which is hardly within 1km distance from the beach, lift the traps, and brings the catch to the shore, leaving the traps permanently in the sea. The fishermen were used traditional traps till 2004, when the coastal areas were hit by Tsunami resulting huge loss to property including washing off traps and human loss along this place.  Subsequently the fishermen used traps made of stainless steel and iron . 

Bottom set gill nets

The bottom set gill nets of varying sizes usually 40 feet long and 12 feet wide are made by joining eight to twelve pieces of polyethylene monofilament nets of 75-80 mm mesh size. The fishing is carried out by 2 to 3 or 4 numbers of fishermen engaged for setting the nets in the evenings on rocky areas of inshore waters. In peak season.,fishermen examines the nets daily in the early morning and collect the lobsters that are accidently entangled in the net  while searching for prey during the night . While in lean season they collect lobsters, within 3 to 4 days only.

Lobster fishing using Light

During October-December when the sea remains calm and clear, the fishermen use strong torch to stunt the lobsters by blurring their vision. The fishermen dive to the sea bottom with a head light and directly catch  the lobsters.

Ecosystem Impacts: Describe how the fishery interacts with the ecosystem; including gear interactions (e.g. habitat disturbance), species interactions (e.g. by catch, endangered species, and effects on the food web), etc. include what is found in literature as well as the local perception of the impacts

The intertidal region of rocky areas along the coast provides shelter as well as feeding ground for lobsters. The fishery for P.homarus flourished during 1964-1973, and reduction in landings in the later years. Increased fishing effort, introduction of gill nets for fishing, occurrence of juveniles and egg bearing lobsters in the commercial catch, were reported by researchers as reasons for the overall decline in lobster landings. Reports are available on fluctuations of lobster populations at the same area due to seasonal migration.CMFRI studies reported restricted movement of P.homarus along Muttom based on experimental tagging and emphasized that lobster recruitment take place in very early stage i.e.  at the time of larval settlement in the sea bottom. The larvae when settle in the sea bottom, their survival mainly depends on the suitability of the substratum along with ecological conditions. The presence of continuous rocky reefs along the near shore waters of Kanyakumari district provide very good environment for the successful settlement and survival of the juveniles. Investigations  also proved that P.homarus lives within a restricted area either solitary or as a group   in a particular hide-out.

Local perception

Fishermen from Kanyakumari district reported that  they get good catches of lobsters when the occurrence of  sardines, puffer fish, clathy and anchovies in abundance especially during monsoon season   . So above species can be the indicator species for lobsters. Fishermen also reported availability of good numbers of early juveniles of spiny lobsters along the sea weed bed in coastal waters near Muttom.

Threats to Sustainability: Describe any additional threats to the sustainability of this fishery (e.g. outsider encroachment, coastal development, etc.). Is there anything being done to address these threats?  

Habitat degradation resulted by large scale dumping of plastics,  discarded gears and Pollution due to liquid waste disposal by mineral companies cause threats to the sustainability of this fishery  . Capturing of juveniles and berried lobsters are deleterious to the fishery. Use of by trammel nets and gill nets for lobster fishing results capturing of  different age groups including juveniles that is unfavorable for the fishery.

Fishers: Describe the group of fishers. Are they women or men? How many are there? How are they organized? To what extent do fishers profit from fishing? Are profits used to provide community infrastructure?

Only men are involved in lobster fishing and trade.  Domestic market for spiny lobsters in Kanyakumari district is focused on beach resorts and restaurants associated with the tourism Industry. The fishermen after catching , auction lobsters at the  same beach where middlemen purchase and stock the lobsters in iron boxes provided with lock and suspend in near shore waters . Some middlemen directly transport the lobsters to the lobster holding centers located near the seashore in gunny bags or plastic bags by applying moist sand on lobsters. Middlemen then stock lobsters in live holding centers i.e., indoor concrete tanks filled with sea water provided with aeration. The fishermen keep lobsters for days or weeks till they get sufficient numbers  ,demand and good price. 

In this domestic market ,  lobsters are generally categorized in to 3 quality grades based on their weight such as 1st quality  belonging to > 200 g, 2nd quality 100-200 g and 3rd quality <100 g and accordingly prices are fixed. The prices per kg of live lobsters were recorded as Rs 100-400 for 3rd quality, Rs 300-1500 for 2nd and Rs 500-2000 for 1st quality. The middlemen  then re- sale these lobsters to restaurants and sea food exporters for higher prices of maximum of 2,500 to 3500 Rs/kg .Local  household consumption is very low due to high prices.  

Live lobster trade

It was observed that in Kanyakumari district, middlemen from fishermen community collect and stocks lobsters of different size groups in live lobster holding centers of varying capacity. The lobsters are maintained in holding units   till they collect adequate quantity, better price and , market demands and are finally transported to Chennai based buyers for export. Since lobsters are quite hardy and can survive several days without food, fishermen are of practice to stock them without food or even feeding on minimum.  The overstocked holding tanks cause aggression among the lobsters resulting severe stress. Some of the holding centers do not have basic infrastructure facilities. The fishermen are of the habit of cutting the long whip like antennae of lobsters for want of space for storage in packing boxes or stocking tanks , and  in the process of rough handling other appendages especially walking limbs often break /loss. This may lead infection among lobsters by opportunistic pathogen. Certain quality standards should be made mandatory for lobster holding centers based on stress free holding system design incorporating, biological filters , water quality standards/ specifications , nutrition  aspects etc focusing maximum  holding system hygiene .

 At present more entrepreneurs are venturing in to small/ large scale cage farming of lobsters in open sea and enclosed   Bays because of the high unit value, net profit and increasing demand. Since the availability of lobster seeds from wild are scanty along the coast, most of the fishermen have the access to these holding   centers to procure lobsters for stocking their cages. Chances are more for these lobsters stocked in holding systems to become potential carriers of pathogens which can lead disease outbreaks in wild when used for cage farming.


Management Agencies: Describe the roles that institutions, agencies, or local management bodies play in the management system and their interactions with each other

Role of Institutions

CMFRI ‘s research activities  involves investigations and documentation  on fishing practices, estimations on lobsters landings, fishing effort ,biology  and conducting lobster conservation awareness programs through stakeholder’s meeting, imparting  training programs to fishermen and field demonstration of lobster fattening in sea cages . CMFRI along with fishermen participatory programs successfully demonstrated lobster fattening in large marine floating cage moored at Vizhinjam Bay in Kerala, for the first time in India in 2009. Cage culture also conducted in Enayam in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and other maritime states of India. CMFRI has  also conducted series of national training workshops on cage culture of spiny lobsters and fin fishes to fishermen and entrepreneurs from different maritime states. As a result, fishermen from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu , Karnataka, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala has ventured in to cage culture of spiny lobsters and finfishes using location specific marine cages moored along the coastal waters.

 CIFT has developed  modified version of iron traps with escapement device for juveniles, guiding funnel etc to catch lobsters.  Tamil Nadu Fisheries University have been installed a cage culture unit for lobster fattening in the open sea under Institution Progressive farmer tie up method during the year 2011.

Management Agencies

NETFISH (Network for Fish Quality Management and Sustainable Fishing)               

NETFISH impart guidance to  fishermen/fisherwomen/processing workers, technicians etc in fish quality management, conservation of fish resources as well as sustainable fishing.

MPEDA deals quality complaints and trade disputes from overseas buyers and trade disputes from Indian seafood exporters against overseas buyers. MPEDA is a member in the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Export Inspection Council and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. 

Local management bodies 

Community based management by Parish priests, and other community leaders  usually solves conflicts among the fishermen along the district.


Management regime:  Describe how the fishery is managed. Include information for both national and local levels about rules, regulations, closed areas/seasons, quotas, limited entry/licenses, conflict resolution, adaptability, coping strategy/mitigation, etc. how often do managers review rules and regulations? How would changes in the political regime affect management?

CMFRI conducted a project funded by MPEDA that attempted to implement co-management of lobster resources through outreach programmes. Lobster conservation messages spread by distributing posters, pamphlets and stickers in vernacular language in lobster fishing villages among lobster suppliers and exporters. Village level participatory meetings, workshops, rallies by involving school and college students also conducted. As an awareness campaign  for protecting egg bearing lobsters, CMFRI carried out v-notching of matured lobsters and releasing egg bearing lobsters back to the sea with the involvement of fishermen from major lobster fishing centers of Tamil Nadu,Maharashtra and Gujarat. CMFRI recommended Minimum Legal Size (MLS) for export of four species of lobsters and accordingly Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, implemented ban on export of lobsters below MLS.  The minimum legal size for export of lobsters from India in live, chilled and frozen form implemented as per the Notification No.16 (RE 2003)/ 2002-07 dated 17 July 2003. Regional fishery management council also have been proposed in major lobster fishing villages along Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra by involving officials from respective State Fisheries Departments as co-ordinators. 

Management compliance: Do fishers comply with the management regime? How do managers ensure compliance? Are regulations actively enforced? Do fishers comply with international regulations for species conservation?

Yes, fishers will comply incase, management regime is enforced. 

Community participation in management: Describe how the community set its own rules and regulations? How does this happen? Are they active in the governmental management system?

In Kanyakumari district, lobster fishery is fished and governed by the traditional fishermen community. At present fishermen catch lobsters of all size groups including egg bearing or juveniles.

Processing and marketing Information: Once the product is landed, what happens to it? What is the chain from fishhook to consumer? Include how the product is processed and sold, and who processes and sells it. Where are the main markets for the fishery? Please also describe any buyers data that are available (e.g. quantity sold or exported, overall value); who collects manages, and stores the data; how the data are collected; and the number of years for which data are available

Panulirus homarus are commonly known as rock lobster/spiny lobster.  They have a prominent place in the sea food export market in terms of demand and price. Major portion of resources from India are exported as frozen and live. Spiny lobsters in live condition fetch 5 to 7 times increased price than frozen form in international market. The price of live lobster in domestic market ranged from Rs 500 to3,000Rs/kg. The price of  Juvenile lobsters  are amounted to Rs 100/kg .Annual average  revenue earnings by India through the export of lobsters is  Rs.74 crores . Export markets are, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Europe and USA.

 Live lobster Export Packing and transportation

Prior to packaging, lobsters are   dipped in 13 0 C sea water. Then individually wrapped in news papers of suitable size and placed serially, inside a polystyrene box. In case if more number of lobsters is to be transported, they are placed one upon the other by placing news paper sprayed with 130 C cooled sea water like a sandwich between the lobsters. Inside the packing box, 2 plastic bottles filled with 130C sea water are kept and a thin layer of news paper spread on the top of the lobsters and the box tightly closed. Few holes on the sides of the box are provided for maintaining aeration and keep them live.

Interest in certification: Describe the fishery’s interest in certification. Are they interested? Why or why not?

Fishermen are interested in certification.

Stakeholders: who are the key stakeholders in this fishery (e.g. fishing organizations, processors, agents, buyers, researchers, NGOs, fisheries/natural resources management bodies, local authorities, etc.)? How many people are involved in the fishery (including fishers, processors, sellers, boat and gear manufacturers, managers, scientists, etc.)? What percentage of the human population within the coastal community depends on the fishery for their food or livelihood?

Fishermen from Marine Fisheries Sector, Middlemen,   Researchers, Entrepreneurs, Fish venders, Central and State Fisheries Departments, Marine Product  Export Development Authority, Export Inspection Agency, NETFISH ,Sea Food Exporters,  Fishermen Co-operative societies, Beach Resorts and Restaurents, Boat owners, Religious /Community  leaders and Tourism Department.


Issues requiring special attention: Describe any local, regional or global controversies and/ or conservation concerns that impact or involve the fishery. 

Focus on adequate sanitary measures by coastal fishermen communities is necessary. Fishing fleet and coastal areas should be free from human waste, discarding of plastics, gear   parts, cloths, animal slaughter shed waste etc. The deleterious effects due to anthropogenic activities on fishery products lead contamination by hazardous bacteria which   are a serious issue to be addressed. 

Additional comments:  Include any additional information about this fishery or important to working with this fishery)

 Maintaining spawning stocks of lobsters in cages installed in their natural habitat would enable conservation of spawners leading   augmentation of spiny lobster resources which otherwise would be caught and marketed or are susceptible for predation. Implementation of this program continuously for a long run would ensure sufficient larval recruitment in the sea allowing   replenishment of the fishery on long term .Region wise lobster seed resources would be estimated .Inter – relationship between larval availability and hydrographic parameters would be analyzed


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