Spiny lobsters have only small, hook-like claws.
Their common name comes from the sharp spines all over their heavy,
orange-brown shells. This armour has to be shed when the
lobster grows, leaving them vulnerable to predators until their new
shell has hardened.
Spiny lobsters are found near the coast and offshore to 70m
deep, in seascapes of bedrock and boulders. They are mostly
active at night. During the day, it is often only the tip of
an antenna poking out from a cave or beneath an overhang that
alerts divers to their presence.
Once fished with pots and tangle nets, spiny lobsters are no
longer a target fishery because of dwindling numbers, but are
sometimes landed when fishing for other animals. The number
of spiny lobsters caught has been falling (in some cases
dramatically), the animals that are caught tend to be smaller, and
they seem to have disappeared entirely from areas of south-west
England in which they were common during the 1970s. This all
suggests that there are no longer as many spiny lobsters as there
used to be, with over-fishing and environmental conditions both
possibly to blame.
To help protect spiny lobsters only mature animals, those with a
body length larger that 11cm, can be landed legally. Research from
the Mediterranean suggests that spiny lobster numbers recover well
in Marine Protected Areas, and that this helps to support
neighbouring spiny lobster fisheries.
Other common names
European spiny lobster
Spiny lobsters are found on the south and west coasts of the
British Isles, with the main populations confined to the extreme
south-west coasts of England and Wales, and the west coasts of
Scotland, and Ireland. They are also found as far south as
the Azores, as well as in the western Mediterranean, and the
Adriatic and Aegean Seas.
- This is a UK BAP Priority Species (BAP
species are now Species of Principal Importance/Priority
- Species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation
of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities
of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland
Life Information Network
Marine Lobsters of the World
World Register of Marine Species
JNCC - UK BAP Priority
Species and Habitats