Why are these areas closed to spiny lobster trap fishing?
NOAA Fisheries Service and the Gulf and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils have created closed areas to protect threatened staghorn and elkhorn coral (Acropora spp.) from fishing gear used to harvest spiny lobster. Prohibiting the use of lobster traps near these corals reduces their risk of damage due to trap movement caused mostly by storms. The 2009 Endangered Species Act biological opinion on the spiny lobster fishery required the Councils in cooperation with National Marine Fisheries Service to protect areas with known staghorn and elkhorn coral by creating new closed areas (60) that restrict lobster fishing using all gear. While traps are not set directly on corals,they can move from wave action during storms and damage corals
Once considered dominant reef building species, elkhorn and staghorn corals underwent precipitous declines in the early 1980s throughout their ranges and this decline has continued (Acropora BRT 2005). Because of their once vast abundance on Caribbean reefs prior to the early 1980s, researchers/divers rarely took time to collect information on such a common species. As a result little quantitative data on changes to distribution and abundance are currently available. However, in the few locations where quantitative data are available (e.g., Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, Belize, Jamaica, and the U.S.V.I.), declines in abundance (coverage and colony numbers) are estimated at approximately 97% of historic levels (Acropora BRT 2005). Although this decline has been documented as on-going during the late 1990s, and even in the past five years in some locations, local extinctions (i.e., at the island or country scale) have not been rigorously documented (Acropora BRT 2005).
This tool was designed to be an intuitive and easy to mapping application to display the spiny lobster closed areas implemented to protect elkhorn and staghorn corals from damage from lobster gear. The areas are small and unmarked thus, it can be difficult to determine their precise location. This tool aims to simplify the process by providing an interactive map to examine the locations of any (or all) or the areas of interest. Additional information about using the map widgets is available in the information tab below.