The spiny lobster: another treasure in the Gardens of the Queen.
Spiny lobsters have long, cylindrical bodies covered with spines. They are generally olive greenish or brown, but can be tan to mahogany.
There is a scattering of yellowish to cream-colored spots on the carapace and larger (usually four to six) yellow to cream-colored spots on the abdomen. They may reach up to 60 cm (24 in) long, but typically around 20 cm (7.9 in).
Spiny lobster hatches from eggs carried externally by the female for around four weeks. They begin life as a free-swimming, microscopic larvae. After about one year, the larvae settle in algae and seagrass beds or among mangrove roots. After undergoing several molts, they migrate to the coral reefs and live in holes or crevices. After molting the shell is soft and has to harden, until this happens the lobster is highly vulnerable to predation. The diet is mostly composed of mollusks, but they also consume detritus, vegetable material, and dead animals and fish they find on the bottom.
The spiny lobster is a nocturnal species, taking to cover during the day. Their main predators are skates, nurse sharks, octopuses, snappers and groupers. They generally prefer habitat with some sort of cover and can be found around coral reefs, artificial reefs, sponges, bridge pilings, wooden bridge bumpers, piers, and under the prop roots of mangroves.
In Cuba, spiny lobsters are a valuable source of incomes and the annual catch is of about 9 000 tons. The country has 17 certified plants to process lobsters which main product is the pre-cooked lobster.
The Jardines de la Reina National Park is home to one of the most important lobster fisheries and breeding areas of Cuba. Such areas are formed by keys and lagoons with lavish seagrass where the species grows and finds shelter. The lack of surveillance and protection has given way to unlawful fishing, over fishing and trawling which has brought about decrease in breeding individuals and water turbidity.
Breeding sites are obviously under important pressures and threats that disturb ecosystem quality and consequently lobster populations. The violation of zoning and fishing regulations (inadequate mesh) also has a negative impact on the area.
To mitigate pressures and threats on lobster breeding sites, protection and surveillance must be prioritized. Information and signaling regarding behaviour in the park area must be worked out to make actors abide by the regulations in practice. Unfortunately, the lack of resources to undertake the said activities, the economic pressure and the insufficient control by fishing and regulating authorities are the main cause of such threats.