Click here to read our final report.

Our fishermen have spent about 75 days at sea so far. Over 32k lobster were pulled from traps, and over 21k were tagged. 75% of the recaptures were from animals tagged less than 190 days before and 39% were tagged less than 30 days before. This implies that trapping does not adversely affect the lobster’s likelihood of entering a trap. We are continuing to analyze the data.

If you are interested in helping to collect and record data on local commercial lobster vessels, please send an email here.


The Lobster Monitoring Project brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to quantify baseline levels and short term changes in the abundance, size structure, habitat use, and movement of the California spiny lobster inside and outside of several local marine protected areas. The project is part of the South Coast MPA Baseline Program, a collaboration of California Sea Grant, California Ocean Protection Council, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the MPA Monitoring Enterprise, a program of the California Ocean Science Trust.

The California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus, is a significant commercial and recreational fishery species in Southern California. As a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) went into effect throughout the south coast region in January 2012, it is important to understand how fishery closures in these areas affect the lobster’s ecology.

SDOF volunteers work collaboratively with researchers from San Diego State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, marine biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife , and commercial lobster fishermen from the California Lobster and Trap Fisherman’s Association to tag and record data about lobster in Southern California. In addition to the tag/recapture program, SDOF volunteers will help researchers collect data on lobster density and shelter use, catalog important lobster habitats using seafloor mapping technology, and monitor how fishing effort and catch totals differ before and after the implementation of the marine protected areas.

What does a tagged lobster look like?

The tags for our project are approximately 2-inch yellow, blue, and green strips of plastic inserted into the underside or back of the lobster. Each tag has a unique tag number. The yellow and blue tags have our contact information printed on them “ or 619.523.1903”, while the green tags do not. While most lobster will have only one tag, some lobster may have a tag on both the underside and back. For a lobster with two tags, please make sure to submit both tag numbers.

When a lobster is recaptured, its GPS coordinates, sex, reproductive state, and size are recorded so researchers can learn how the lobster travels in and out of the MPAs (spillover), its growth rate, and other relevant information.

Submit Found Tags Here

Yellow tags were typically inserted into the underside of the lobster, between the tail and abdomen.Blue tags were typically inserted into the underside of the lobster, between the tail and abdomen.Green tags were inserted into the back of the lobster between the tail and the upper section of the exoskeleton called the carapace.
I’ve found a lobster with a yellow, blue, or green tag attached to it. What should I do?

If a lobster is caught and it has one of our yellow, blue, or green tags on it, please submit the following information to (submit information using the form above) or call the SDOF office at 619.523.1903:

Tag number
Location where the lobster was caught (GPS coordinates are best, but distance to a recognized landmark is accepted as well)
Carapace length of the lobster (to the nearest millimeter if possible)
Date the lobster was found
If a short lobster (under legal size) is caught and it has a tag attached to it, it may be brought to the surface to be measured. Once the tag number has been quickly recorded, the lobster must be released immediately. No undersize lobster, even if it is tagged, may be brought aboard a boat, placed in any type of receiver, or retained in any manner. Please do not remove any tags from any short lobster. You must comply with all Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations.

Why should I participate?

We need your help! By submitting the location and tag number of each tagged lobster you find, you are providing us with valuable data that can help us learn more about this important species.
Win great prizes! Each tag submitted earns you a ticket in our monthly raffle. Prizes include hundreds of dollars in restaurant gift cards, SeaWorld tickets, and so much more!
Be a part of the future of the California spiny lobster! The data collected will inform the California spiny lobster Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) by providing important information on abundance, size distribution, behavior, and consumptive use of the lobster inside and outside of several local MPAs.
Receive up to date California spiny lobster data! SDOF plans to share pertinent project data with program participants as soon as it becomes available.

In what areas are lobster tagged?

Point Vicente State Marine Conservation Area off Palos Verdes
Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve off Laguna Beach
Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area off Encinitas
South La Jolla State Marine Reserve off La Jolla
Cabrillo State Marine Reserve off Point Loma

Project Highlights

September 2011: Approximately 5,000 lobster tagged off the coasts of Laguna Beach, Point Loma, and South La Jolla in zones slated to become MPAs in January 2012.
April 2012: Research effort expanded. Approximately 20,000 lobster tagged. Data collection begins in Point Vicente SMCA off Palos Verdes, Laguna Beach SMR off Laguna Beach, Swami’s SMCA off Encinitas, South La Jolla SMR off La Jolla, and Cabrillo SMR off Point Loma.
April 2012- September 2012: Researchers conducted dive surveys of Swami’s, South La Jolla, Cabrillo, and Laguna Beach to collect data on lobster density and shelter use. Researchers also used seafloor mapping technology to catalog important lobster habitat in South La Jolla and Point Loma.


Project funds are awarded by the Ocean Protection Council and administered by California Sea Grant. The San Diego Oceans Foundation is working closely with the following partners on this collaborative project:

Professor Kevin Hovel and graduate student Amalia DeGrood of San Diego State University
Ed Parnell of Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Doug Neilson and Travis Buck of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Various lobstermen from the California Lobster Trap Fisherman’s Association including Josh Fisher, Shad Catarius, and Rodger Healy
Dave Rudie of Catalina Offshore Products

California Department of Fish and Wildlife California Spiny Lobster resources
Project Work Plan
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Life Protection Act information
Map of the Southern California State and Federal Marine Protected Areas
Please feel free to email us or call us at 619.523.1903 with any questions.