Populations of the green spiny lobster Panulirus gracilis (Streets 1871) have sustained increasing harvesting pressure in Pacific Panama for decades, but basic information about their biology and ecology in the region is scarce. This study provides baseline data for the densities and biometrics of P. gracilis in Las Perlas and Coiba Archipelagos. The number of surveyed lobsters in both archipelagos was surprisingly low (85 in Las Perlas and 67 in Coiba), and average densities were dismal (4.1 ± 8.8 ind. ha−1 and 5.3 ± 7.6 ind. ha−1, respectively). Saboga and San Jose Islands had the highest relative densities of P. gracilis in Las Perlas, whereas intermediate relative densities were found only on Coiba Island in the Coiba Archipelago. Lobster density was not associated with either substrate or depth. In Las Perlas, female carapace length (CL) was 40–95 mm and that of males was 25–100 mm; in Coiba, female CL was 45–124 mm and male CL was 45–121 mm. In Las Perlas, the smallest lobster with eggs had a CL = 65 mm and a tail length (TL) = 120 mm, whereas the smallest in Coiba had a CL = 60 mm and a TL = 81–115 mm. We recommend implementing: (1) the minimum capture CL as the average carapace length at which half of the lobster population from Coiba is adult (CL = 84 mm; TL = 112–155 mm); (2) a fishing season no longer than 6 mo; (3) management decisions involving local fishermen and native peoples; (4) marine reserves or no-take areas (NTA); and (5) long-term monitoring plans, as the best current options to insure the survival of P. gracilis in the region.
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Vol. 27 • No. 4