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Palinurus elephas (Fabricius, 1787)

    Geographical distribution
    Maximum size
    Length at first maturity
    Eggs, larvae and post-larvae
    Recruitment and nursery areas
    Sex Ratio
    Length-weight relationship
    Maximum age and natural mortality
    Von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF)
    Feeding behaviour
    Stock Units
    Biomass indices from trawl surveys
    Strength of recruitment
    Stock assessment
    Fishing zones and seasons
    Fishing pattern and discards
    Legislation and Management

Figure 53. Palinurus elephas female: a) dorsal face (FAO, Fischer et al., 1987) and
b) ventral face (Rjeibi, 2012). P1, P2, P3, P4, P5: 1st to 5th pereiopods. Pleo: pleopods.

Class:  Malacostraca
Order:  Decapoda
Family:  Palinuridae
English name:  Spiny lobster


The external morphology of Palinurus elephas is similar to that of other members of the Stridentes group of Palinurids (Figure 53). The body of lobster is compartmentalized into a cephalotorax, which consists of the fused head and thorax and an abdomen, with their respective appendages (Holthuis, 1991). Appendages of cephalotorax include the movable eyes, the antennae and antennulae (with defensive, mechanoreception and chemoreception function), the mouth and five pairs of legs. Six separate somites form the abdomen, each protected by chitinous coverings on the dorsal, ventral and lateral (pleura) portions. The pleura encloses the pleopods, which are used to swim and form appendages on the first five abdominal somites. The first two pairs of pleopods form copulatory organ in the males, whilst in mature females the pleopods become setose to enclose the egg mass (Lipcius and Herrnkind, 1987). Colouration is reddish-brown dorsally with a white underside, although a wide range of variations is possible (Hunter et al., 1996). P. elephas is further characterised by two large symmetrical white blotches on the tergites of somites 1-5, with a single, centrally located blotch on the final segment. A further two symmetrical blotches are located on the telson.
The relationship between the total length (TL), measured from the tip of the rostrum to the posterior end of the telson and the carapace length (CL), measured from the tip of the rostrum to the posterior margin of the cephalothorax, was manly studied for different populations. Hunter (1999) summarizes the TL-CL relationships for different Atlantic areas. In the Table 23, some available relationships for various Mediterranean areas were exposed.

Table 23. Total length (TL)–Carapace length (CL) relationship in Palinurus elephas in some Mediterranean areas. GSA: Geographical Sub-Area

Mediterranean areas




Corsica Island, GSA 8

TL = 2.77 CL + 6.38
n=278, range 50-160 mm CL

TL = 2.47 CL + 22.07
n=417, range 45-175 mm CL

Campillo and Amadei, 1978
Sardinia, GSA 11

TL = 1.114 CL1.009
n=356, range 44-98 mm CL

TL = 1.272 CL0.9613
n=465, range 44-98 mm CL
Tidu et al., 2004
Columbretes (Balearic) Islands, GSA 5

TL = 2.88 CL + 12.51
n=441, range 41-142 mm CL

TL = 2.51 CL + 32.04
n=370, range 45-169 mm CL
Quetglas et al., 2004
Northern Tunisia, GSA 12

TL = 2.48 CL + 32.54
n=89, range 93-148 mm CL

TL = 2.34 CL + 38.36
n=91, range 61-167 mm CL
Quetglas et al., 2004
Northern Tunisia, GSA 12

TL = 2.41 CL + 42.25
n=268, range 58-136 mm CL

TL = 2.32 CL + 39.68
n=262, range 46-161 mm CL
Rjeibi, unpublished data


Geographical distribution
The European spiny lobster Palinurus elephas (Fabricius, 1787), is common along the Northeast Atlantic coasts (Ireland and South of England), Azores and Canary Islands and also off Marocco (Figure 54). Throughout the Mediterranean P. elephas occurs over the entire western basin (Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Tunisia, Marin, 1985), it is abundant in Adriatic and Aegean Sea (Morratoupolu Kassimati, 1973), but it is absent in the extreme eastern and south-eastern basins (Holthuis, 1991; Hunter, 1999).

P. elephas lives between the shore and 200m depth on rocky and coralligenous substrates where micro-caves, crevices and natural holes are available (Ceccaldi and Latrouite, 2000). Habitation of shelters may be solitary or in pairs and small groups, probably dictated by gregarious behaviour adapted for protection from diurnally active predators. As documented for other palinurids (Zimmer-Faust et al., 1985) the aggregative behaviour of P. elephas adult specimens (Mercer, 1973), may be driven by chemical (Gristina et al., 2011) or visual stimuli depending on the quality of the surrounding habitat (Eggleston and Lipcius, 1992). Adults of P. elephas are primarily nocturnal (Giacalone et al., 2006) when specimens left their shelters by foraging and reproduction. P. elephas is highly omnivorous and preys on hard–shelled bottom dwelling organisms, principally molluscs, echinoderms, crustaceans, polychaete worm tubes, bryozoans, fish bones and macroalgae (Ansell and Robb, 1977; Campillo and Amadei, 1978; Mercer, 1973). P. elephas appears to change its food preferences as a function of the abundance of benthic organisms present in the foraging area. While molluscs and sea urchins are the most important prey in the diet of the species, other preys are consumed in certain areas and not in others (Goñi et al., 2001a). However, the predominance of shell fragments and calcareous algae may reflect calcium requirements prior the moulting phase (Campillo and Amadei, 1978; Mercer, 1973). Captive specimens rejected fresh fish in favour of mussel and oyster (Campillo and Amadei, 1978) and learned how to extract and consume hermit crabs (Wilson, 1949).

Figure 54. Distribution of Palinurus elephas in the Western Mediterranean Sea and north-east Atlantic Ocean, including the western coast of North Africa, Canary Islands, and the Azores (not on map) by Groeneveld et al., 2006).

In the Atlantic P. elephas undertakes a pre-reproductive spring onshore migration and a reverse post-reproductive offshore migration in late autumn (Mercer, 1973; Ansell and Robb, 1977). A similar behaviour has been postulated for P. elephas off the Columbretes Islands (GSA 5) (Goñi et al., 2001b). Tag-recapture studies indicate that adult movement is restricted, with most animals moving less than 5 km and exceptionally up to 20 km after 1 to 8 years at large (Hepper, 1967; 1970; Marin, 1987; Goñi et al., 2001b; Cuccu, 1999). Giacalone et al. (2006), in their experience to follow the movement of P. elephas released in the Isola delle Femmine MPA (GSA 10, South Tyrrhenian Sea) by the application of an ultrasonic telemetry system, showed that the longest distance travelled by target lobster was 2.2 km during the 79 days of study. However, two reports of movements of 50 and 70 km have been made in the Mediterranean (GSA 9, Relini and Torchia, 1998; GSA 11, Secci et al., 1999). Although recent studies indicate that P. elephas undertakes limited movements, ca. 2.5 km year-1 (GSA 5, Goñi et al., 2006; GSA 11, Follesa et al., 2009). No available data on migration in the northern sector of Strait of Sicily (GSA 15 and 16) and also in the southern one (Tunisian costal, GSA 12 and 13).


Maximum size
According to Fischer et al. (1987) P. elephas in Mediterranean Sea may reach a maximum size of 50cm of total length.
In the northern sector of the Strait of Sicily (GSA 15 and 16) data on the maximum size of P. elephas are scarce or anedoctical. Gristina et al. (2005) using landing analysis at Marettimo fishery (Egadi Islands, GSA 10) reported a maximum size of 120mm (CL) both for male and female, whilst Gristina et al. (2008) at Isola delle Femmine MPA (N/W Sicily, GSA 10) reported a maximum size of 145mm (CL) both for male and female.
In the southern sector (GSA 12), Rjeibi (2012) by population size frequencies distributions analysis (during the period 2001-2006) reported a maximum size of 155mm (CL) for female and 195mm (CL) for male.

Length at first maturity
The mean size at maturity has been established for P. elephas populations in Atlantic and Mediterranean water. Available estimates of length at the first maturity for some Mediterranean population, especially for the southern Strait of Sicily (GSA 12), are given in Table 24. However, no data are available for the northern sector of the Strait of Sicily.

Table 24. Length (mm CL) at first physiological and functional maturity, by sex, for Palinurus elephas from some Mediterranean areas


Physiological maturity


Method Source
Females Males Females

Balearic Island

76.5 (n=192)
74-76 (n=67)
82,7 (n=94)
77.2 (n=683)
Percent of mature or berried
Plot Log(GW)-log(CL)
Goñi et al., 2003a

Corsica Island

80 (n=98)
76 (n=57)
78 (n=53)
86 (n=1169)
Percent of mature or berried
Plot Log(GW)-log(CL)
Marin, 1987

North Tunisia

75,56 (n=120)
85,19 (n=91)
83,1-85,1 (n=41)
79,08 (n=35)
Percent of mature or berried
Plot Log(GW)-log(CL)
Rjeibi, 2012

P. elephas
breed once during the year. In the Atlantic, mating is reported to occur between June and November (Mercer, 1973; Hunter et al., 1996; Gahlardo et al., 2006) and egg laying peaks in September-October (Mercer, 1973; Hunter et al., 1996; Latrouite and Noël, 1997). Spawning season has been also identified in Mediterranean areas and it varies depending on the region (Table 25). However, no data are available for the Sicilian side of the Strait of Sicily (GSA 15 and 16).
Oviposition takes place shortly after mating (i.e., 2 days, Mercer, 1973; 5-10 days, Ansell and Robb, 1977) and eggs are shed across the spermatophoric; egg extrusion may take place in less than two hours (Mercer, 1973).

Table 25. Spawning period and the peaks of laying for P. elephas in some Mediterranean areas.

AREA/GSA Spawning period Peaks of laying Source Mean number of eggs for berried female

17 and 18 Adriatic Sea
20 Eastern Ionian Sea
8 Corsica
8 Corsica
GSA 5Balearic Island
GSA 12 North Tunisia

August to November
August to November
July to September
July to September
July to October

Gamulin, 1955
Moraitopoulou- Kassimati, 1973
Campillo and Amadei, 1978
Marin, 1985
Goñi et al., 2003a
Rjeibi et al., 2010; Rjeibi, 2012

In GSA 12, all mature males reach their gonad maturation during May-July and copulate during August-October (Rjeibi, 2012). The analysis of the evolution of male gonads index indicates that males copulate and re-charge the gonads repeatedly through the breeding season. This observation on male reproductive activity in spiny lobster may be supported by a perspective gonad male histological study.

In the Mediterranean Sea, the fecundity-body size relationship of P. elephas has been studied only in some region for exploited (GSA 8, GSA 12) and for protected populations (GSA 5) (Table 26). The mean fecundity of the population and means relative fecundity (nb eggs/body gram) have been also estimated. In the GSA 5 and 8, the equation of fecundity is linear. However, in the GSA 12, it is a power function, according to Authors; it explained the difference in reproductive trends between large and small females.

Table 26. Fecundity (F)-Carapace length (CL) relationship, mean fecundity and mean relative fecundity for some Mediterranean populations of P. elephas.

AREA/GSA F-CL relationship Mean absolute fecundity Mean relative fecundity Source

GSA 5 Balearic Island

GSA 8 Corsica

GSA 12 NorthTunisia

F=2428 CL-148988 (R²= 0.85, n=70)

F=3003 CL-229809 (R²= 0.97, n=24)

F=3.8 10-4 CL4.2 (R²= 0.94, n=93)

299882 eggs

67188 eggs

92232 eggs

3118±33 eggs/g


116±32 eggs/g

Goñi et al., 2003a

Campillo and Amadei, 1978

Rjeibi, 2012

Eggs, larvae and post-larvae
Egg incubation lasts 4-5 months in the Western Mediterranean, GSA 8 and GSA 5 (Campillo and Amadei, 1978; Marin, 1985; Goñi et al., 2003a). No information is available for the Strait of Sicily (GSA 12, 13, 15 and 16) from the literature. But in a study on captivity on spiny lobster caught from the GSA 12 (Rjeibi et al., unpublished data), they observed that egg incubation in Tunisian water must lasts 5 months. In GSA 12, berried females were caught from all the fishing areas (Gaamour et al., 2005; Rjeibi, 2012).
Hatching occurs in December-February in the GSA 17, 18, 8 and 5 (Gamulin, 1955; Campillo and Amadei, 1978; Goñi et al., 2003a). Hatching may be completed in 24 hours (Mercer, 1973), although in aquaria it may last up to 8 days (Karlovac, 1965). No information is available for the Strait of Sicily. However, in captivity it may be completed in 24h for specimens from the GSA 12 (Rjeibi et al., unpublished data).
As all Palinurids, the larvae of P. elephas is a leaf-like, transparent planktonic zoea called phyllosoma (Cunningham, 1891, in Goñi and Latrouite, 2005), which adapted to a long offshore drifting life. There is no available information on its geographic distribution and its displacement in the Strait of Sicily.
P. elephas post larvae settle in holes and crevices of rocky coastal habitat. However, Marin (1987) off Corsica (GSA 8) and Jiménez et al. (1996) along the Iberian Peninsula (GSA 1 and 6) reported large quantities of juveniles over Posidonia oceanica beds. Settlement takes place in summer at a preferential bathymetric layer ranging from 5 and 15 m (Díaz et al., 2001; Gristina et al., 2008).

Recruitment and nursery areas
Due to the biological characteristics of the young of the year (camouflage, cripticity, solitary) and to the very low catchability to the traditional gears (pots, trammel nets) identification of nursery areas for P. elephas results, to date, very difficult. However, the introduction of trammel net with narrower mesh size and of gill net allows for general information to be obtained on the juvenile concentration areas. In addition, in the recent period, many studies based on the underwater visual census methods permit identification of the biological and geomorphologic characteristics of the preferential habitat of the European Spiny lobster. Diaz et al. (2001) in the western Mediterranean Sea (GSA 5 and 6) and Gristina et al. (2008) in N/W coast of Sicily (GSA 10) observed that calcarenitic rocks with a high number of crevices and holes represents an appropriate habitat for recruits and early juveniles. Although no specific surveys were carried out along the northern sector of the Strait of Sicily, it is reasonable to image that calcareous rock both along the coast and in the off-shore banks could represent an appropriate substrate for settlement. Interviews carried out with fishermen allow us to identify areas of concentration of juveniles in Marettimo Island and in high sea rocky banks.

Sex Ratio
In Spanish fisheries (GSA 6), the sex-ratio is variable depending on the month sampling. The females are dominant at the beginning of summer and winter with a femininity rate of about 66%. The abundance of male increases in June and middle winter, femininity rate is about 50% (Goñi et al., 2001b). Predominance of females was also observed throughout the year for P. elephas from Corsica (GSA 8) (Campillo, 1982).
In Tunisian water (GSA 12), the sex-ratio of P. elephas is in favour of males. They dominate whatever the period and area sampling (Rjeibi, 2012). Femininity rates reach a maximum during August-September and decrease in October. The annual male dominance in Tunisian population can be explained by the difference in catchability between the two sexes, by the faster growth of males and/or by the greater natural mortality of females (Rjeibi, 2012; Rjeibi et al., 2011).

Length-weight relationship
The carapace length versus weight (CL versus W) as morphometric relationships was studied and reported in Mediterranean Sea (Table 27).

Table 27. Parameters of the length–weight relationships (W = a CLb, where W = Total body weight and CL = carapace length) of spiny lobster in some Mediterranean areas. CL is expressed in mm.




a b CL range a b CL range

8 Corsica
11 Sardinia
11 Sardinia
5 Columbretes Islands
12 North Tunisia
12 North Tunisia


Except for Tidu et al. (2004), these publications showed that for the same size males are slightly heavier than females. But, Rjeibi (2012), during length-weight relationships analysis for Tunisian spiny lobster (GSA 12), showed that this difference is more significant for specimens greater than 80mm CL (puberty) and he linked this difference to greater participation of females after the puberty in reproduction, especially during incubation. Tidu et al. (2004) have reported an interannual variability in length-weight relationships for both sexes from NW Sardinian water (GSA 11) and they related this difference to the changes in food availability that have been found linked to some physical environmental features such as temperature and salinity. Accordingly, for a better estimation of W from the length-weight relationships, we suggest yearly calculation of this relation for P. elephas and for two sizes intervals before and after puberty.

Maximum age and natural mortality
Maximum age and the coefficient of natural mortality have been estimated for some P. elephas Mediterranean populations as in Table 6. However, no data on the natural mortality are available for the Sicilian side of the Strait of Sicily.
Predation is probably the major cause of natural mortality of P. elephas. In particular juvenile and moulting specimens represent a very vulnerable stage threatened by a wide range of predators (Marin, 1985). In the southern sector, Rjeibi (2012) estimates the natural mortality for Tunisian population (GSA 12) in its exploitable phase and separately by sexes. He showed that, as in other crustaceans, this mortality varies with size, especially between juveniles and adults. Hence and in the case that it will be used in population dynamic analysis, natural mortality was estimated only for the exploitation phase size interval.

Von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF)
The Von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF) parameters, by sex, in different Mediterranean areas are given in Tables 28 and 29 and in Figures 55 and 56.

Table 28. Maximum age and natural mortality (M) for Palinurus elephas in Mediterranean areas

GSA Masimum age M M estimation method Source

8 Corsica

15 years  (sex combined)

0.15-0.30 year−1

speculative arguments

Marin, 1987

11 Sardinia

15 years  (sex combined) 0.24-0.31 year−1

modified standard method based on age frequency distributions

Bevacqua et al., 2010

5 Balearic

  0.14-0.26 year−1

modeling approach

Goñi et al., 2010

12 Northern
15 year (female),
20 years (male)
0.31 year−1 (female),
0.24 year−1 (male)
Mean of seven indirect methods Rjeibi, 2012;
Rjeibi et al., 2011

Table 29. Von Bertalanffy growth function parameters in Palinurus elephas by sex and area.

GSA Sex L K t0 CL range (mm) Method Source

8 Corsica







Marin, 1987

11 Sardinia

Tagging-recapture Follesa et al., 2003
12 Northern
Size frequencies analysis Rjeibi et al., 2011

The difference in growth between the GSA 12 and the two others areas can be due to the difference in the estimation method. The tagging-recapture based on a limited interval size could underestimate growth parameters. Size frequencies analysis, which can be influenced by the sampling method and its success, could provoke an overestimation of these parameters. But also, studies in Palinuridae suggested that food availability, environmental factors as temperature and dissolute oxygen rate and population density (which can be influenced by exploitation) are important in the determination of growth rate by region (Newman and Pollock, 1974; Pollock, 1979; 1982; 1991; McKoy and Esterman, 1981; Pollock and Beyers, 1981).

Figure 55. Growth curves of female red spiny lobster from Mediterranean areas (derived from parameters given in Table 29). GSA 12 = Northern Tunisia; GSA 8 = Corsica Island; GSA 11 = Sardinia Island. Figure 56. Growth curves of male red spiny lobster from Mediterranean areas (derived from parameters given in Table 29). GSA 12 = Northern Tunisia; GSA 8 = Corsica Island; GSA 11 = Sardinia Island.

Feeding behaviour
P. elephas preys on a variety of benthic organisms. It is highly omnivorous and preys on hard-shelled bottom dwelling organisms, principally molluscs, echinoderms and crustaceans. It is an opportunistic feeder that appears to change its food preferences as a function of the abundance of benthic organisms (Goñi et Latrouite, 2005). While molluscs and sea urchins are the most important prey in the diet of the species, other prey such as decapods crustaceans, ophiuroids or coralline algae are consumed in certain areas and not in others (Goñi et al., 2001a). Mercer (1973) and Goñi et al. (2001a) have described quantitatively their diet off Ireland and the Western Mediterranean. There is no available information on the diet of this species in the Strait of Sicily.

Stock Units
The stock structure of red spiny lobster in the strait of Sicily is still not well known and needs further studies. The GSA 12 and an area of the GSA 10 close to it (Isola delle femmine and Capo Gallo from N/W of Sicily) were included in phylogeographic and population genetic structure studies (Palero et al., 2008, 2011; Babbucci et al., 2010). These studies showed genetic variability between Mediterranean areas and a possible higher gene diversity for the Tunisian population (GSA 12). This supposes that maybe there is more than one stock unit in the Strait of Sicily, which must be confirmed by genetic study in this region. However, Goñi et al., (2006), in the case of their experience “Ocean circulation and Larval drift”, released three drifting buoys in the Columbretes reserve (GSA 5) at the time of egg hatching of P. elephas (January). One of these buoys reached the Strait of Sicily in April. After egg hatching, pelagic phyllosoma larvae drift in ocean currents during 4-5 months, corresponding to its larval life period (January-May). This must suppose a possible drifting of phyllosoma from other Mediterranean areas to the Strait of Sicily.


Biomass indices from trawl surveys
There is little information in literature on biomass and density indices from the northern side of Strait of Sicily (GSA 15, 16). In southern one, Gaamour et al. (2005) reported a catch rate of 3.4 (number of lobster/day/500m net) in the GSA 12.

Strength of recruitment
A There is little information on recruitment and stock-recruitment relationships for P. elephas populations. Marin (1987) reported that recruitment occurs in fishing areas in GSA 8 from the size of 40mm CL. Based on Length Cohort Analysis (LCA), he estimated the number of recruit for each sex between 458000 to 801900. In the southern Strait of Sicily (GSA 12), based on LCA, Rjeibi (2012) estimated the number of recruit for females between 230053 and 346967 and for males between 370381 and 537020.

Stock assessment
Based on different models of population dynamics, the Tunisian stocks of P. elephas are at their maximum level of exploitation or in state of biologic overexploitation (Gaamour et al., 2009; Rjeibi, 2012). These Authors have proposed some measures to improve the stock status: 1) Mimimum Legal Size can be ameliorated in order to increase the number of lobster which participate in spawning processes and increase the fecundity of the spawning stock biomass and the consequent recruitment. 2) based on Fox model, the total allowable catch (TAC) can be fixed to 31 tons per year. 3) based on length-cohort and relative yield-per-recruit analysis, by sex, the current fishing effort must be reduced for female and male by 32% and 42%, respectively, to reach an optimum exploitation of Tunisian populations. 4) based on the capture composition analysis of three mesh size of trammel nets used by professional vessels, the mesh size of nets during spiny lobster fishing season must be greater than 70 mm.

P. elephas is intensively exploited in the Mediterranean Sea and the north-eastern Atlantic (Goñi et al., 2003a). It is traditionally targeted by artisanal fisheries, but the change in fishing strategy (from traps to trammel nets) that took place between the 1960s and the 1970s has severely impacted lobster populations (Hunter, 1999; Goñi and Latrouite, 2005). Consequently, lobster catches have declined in most of the distribution range during recent decades (Goñi et al., 2003a; Goñi and Latrouite, 2005).
In Tunisian waters (GSA 12), a major change in the exploitation strategy took place during the 1980s with the introduction of trammel-nets that progressively replaced the traditional methods. This change in fishing strategy was followed by a greater increase in spiny lobster landings and in the number of vessels targeting it (especially during 1990s), hence excessive fishing of species. These changes and excessive fishing methods had an impact as observed on the populations of other species: on exploitation levels, demography and sex composition of the exploited populations (Hunter et al., 1996; Goñi et al., 2003b; Goñi et Latrouite, 2005). Those (negatives influences) were observed for Tunisian population since the year 2000. Since then, the average size of exploited fraction and fishing yields have been in decline.

The annual evolution of landings of European spiny lobsters in Mediterranean and Black Sae and in the Atlantic are reported in Figure 57. Since 2000, the landings increase in the Mediterranean and Black Sea however they decrease in the Atlantic.

Figure 57. Annual evolution of landings of European spiny lobsters in Mediterranean and Black Sea and in the Atlantic (Northeast) (FAO FishStat Plus 2012).

The increase of European spiny lobster landings in the Mediterranean and Black Sea can be attributed to the evolution of Italian landings (Figure 58).

Figure 58. Annual evolution of landings of P. elephas in Mediterranean and Black Sea by country (FAO-FishStat Plus).


Fishing zones and seasons
In southern side of Strait of Sicily (GSA 12), 5 zones were the most frequented by Tunisian professional boat targeting red spiny lobster (Figure 59).

Figure 59. Fishing zones in GSA 12, Northern Tunisia (Rjeibi, 2012).

Since 2000 in the GSA 12, the fishing yields are in decline in Tunisian fisheries (Figure 60).

Figure 60. Evolution of CPUE (Kg per fishing day) during the period 2000-2008 in Tunisian P. elephas fishery, GSA 12, Northern Tunisia (Gaamour et al., 2009).

Fishing pattern and discards
In Tunisian waters (GSA 12) generally, P. elephas present 47 % of the total weight of species caught by trammel net. This percentage can be divided into 3 parts: 73% are marketable specimens, 23% are discards (damaged) and 4% illegal size (Quetglass et al., 2004).

P. elephas in Tunisian water is targeted by artisanal vessels called “langoustier” using trammel net with mesh size greater than 70 mm (length: 500-1000 m, height: 2.5m and mesh size: 70-80 mm, Gaamour et al., 2009). P. elephas is also caught by artisanal vessels (using finfish netting of 40mm) and by bottom trawling (Figure 61).

Figure 61. Annual evolution of the percent of the red spiny lobster landing production by gear.

Fishing pattern and discards
P. elephas is signaled in the appendix III of Barcelona convention as species with regulated exploitation and in the appendix III of Berne convention as protected fauna species in the Mediterranean Sea.
All Mediterranean P. elephas populations are managed at national level. In Italian and Maltese waters the minimum landing size (MLS) is 90 mm CL. The fishery is closed from January 1st to April 30th (EU Reg. 2006) which covers only one part of the breeding season and berried females are to be returned to the water (Gristina et al., 2002; Gristina et al. 2005).
In Tunisian waters, the fishing activity is regulated by an annual closure during the period July-February for territorial water and 15th September-February for international waters, by a MLS of 20cm of total length (TL) corresponding to 70mm CL and by a ban on catching berried females. According to biological studies on this species in Tunisian waters (Gaamour et al., 2009; Rjeibi, 2012), the annual closure in international waters does not cover the peak of the breading season which occurs during August and MLS is smaller than the length at the first functional maturity which is about 80mm CL corresponding to 23cm of TL. The mesh size of outer panels in trammel nets may also be regulated and the minimum size of 70mm was proposed. This last regulation is only considered by the artisanal vessels called “langoustiers” for which red spiny lobster is a target species. However, a considerable quantity of lobsters was caught as bycatch by artisanal vessels (using finfish netting of 40 mm) and by bottom trawling.

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