American lobster is caught year-round in the United States, peaking in summer and early fall. In Canada, seasons vary but generally landings peak in May and June and once again in December. The best time to buy is in May when the Canadian Gulf of St. Lawrence fishery opens and summer demand has not started. Post-Labor Day can be good because landings from Maine are strong and summer demand has dropped. Buying lobster from Maine in early summer can include soft-shell lobsters, a.k.a. "shedders," which can have poorer meat fill. Most lobsters are sold live by size grade (in lbs.): chickens (.75-1.0), heavy chickens (1.0-1.25), quarters (1.25-1.50), selects (1.50-1.75), deuces (1.75-2.0), heavy selects (2.0-2.25), small jumbos (2.25-2.50), and jumbos (2.50-4.0).
American lobster, also marketed as Maine lobster, is slow-growing and late-maturing. Some lobsters can live to be 100 years old. These characteristics contribute to lobster’s low resiliency to fishing pressure as well as unfavorable environmental conditions. American lobster is found from Newfoundland to the Carolinas and is most abundant in the Gulf of Maine, where the stock is considered healthy. The Georges Bank lobster stock started to decline in 2005, but is still considered relatively high. Stock in Southern New England is depleted due to a combination of factors but is not overfished, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Habitat impacts ( Wild)
Most American lobsters are caught with wire-mesh traps placed on the seafloor. Although these traps have the potential to do damage to rocky areas where lobsters live, measures have been taken to minimize risk, including size limits on gear and using weights to minimize movement. There is also some evidence that lobster pots can have positive effects on the environment by temporarily serving as a reef habitat and shelter from trawls and dredges.
American lobster pots and traps tend to have low bycatch rates. However, endangered North Atlantic humpback and right whales have gotten entangled in lobster fishing gear and died, causing ongoing concern. Lobster traps can also result in a high number of shellfish and crab bycatch. Regulations require that lobster traps have biodegradable escape panels and escape vents so ghost fishing does not occur, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
In the U.S., the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and NOAA Fisheries manage American lobster stocks cooperatively. In Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages the resource. Management measures include stock assessments every two to five years, trap surveys, gear restrictions, permit requirements, limits on harvest amounts, size limits, and electronic reporting. While management in the American lobster fishery is generally considered effective, the Monterey Bay Aquarium rated the harvest strategy management in Southern New England a very high concern in mid-2012 because American lobster stock there was so depleted and had not improved.