Get to Know Your Neighbor: California Spiny Lobster


Hi! I’m the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus). Even though I normally only grow to be around 12-24 inches in length, I am an important part of making sure that one of California’s most iconic ecosystems, the kelp forest, stays healthy and balanced. We spiny lobsters prey on sea urchins, one of the main predators of kelp. If there were no one to keep the urchin population in check, the kelp forest would slowly diminish, leading to the destruction of the ecosystem, and the estimated 800 marine species that rely on it. Many people think we are a tasty treat and overharvesting has become quite an issue for us. Luckily, my friends at WILDCOAST have helped to create and manage over 545,000 acres of marine protected areas (MPAs) to help keep me safe!

I live in the Pacific Ocean, specifically along the coast from Central California all the way down to the southern coast of Mexico. You can tell me apart from the other lobsters because I am bright orange and I don’t have big claws like they do, instead I just have two long antennae! My favorite meals are sea urchins, clams, mussels and worms. My predators are various fishes, octopuses and sea otters.

I normally reside around 65 meters (213 ft) below the ocean surface, nestled within the rocks and sea grass. As a juvenile, I like to hang out in the shallower depths of the tide pools but as I mature, I tend to spend my time in the depths.

As a lobster my lifespan is uncertain, however we are thought to live for up to 50 years! We reach reproductive age at around 3-10 years old. Females can carry an astounding 120,000-680,000 eggs that hatch around 10 weeks later, turning into flat Phyllosoma larvae. Usually the spawning takes place sometime between May and August.

Why should humans care about me?

People say I’m delicious. But how would I know!? This is exactly our problem. Over time we have become a valuable product on the market. In many cases I am being overharvested. Whether that is commercial fishing, recreational fishing or at its worst poaching. Although we currently endangered, we are being exploited along our coasts.

San Diego County is home to 11 MPAs. MPAs are very special areas of the coast and ocean protected to help species like us flourish, which is exciting for our family reunions! Unfortunately, many poachers see MPAs as an opportunity to increase their harvests.

WILDCOAST is an organization that establishes and protects MPAs where we live. They educate the community and make sure that our habitat is thriving the way that it was intended to! WILDCOAST helped establish MPAs from Central California down through Mexico. Coincidentally the area they protect, is exactly where I make my home. Wildcoast came to our rescue!! Over the years the fines for the fishing or the gathering of our species in MPAs, has gone up to $5,000-$40,000. In one night a poacher could harvest up to 25 lobster and receive thousands of dollars when sold, so it is important to prevent them from doing this.

Luckily, policies are being passed and the community is becoming aware of the danger this is to our kind. Change is taking place. Not only do these laws and the creation of MPAs help our species survive, it helps many other species as well, because we are a part of the food chain.

California Spiny Lobster are vital to the coasts of the Californias and are important to keeping our coastlines filled with variety and health.


This is the California spiny lobster signing out for the day!

Enjoy your ocean and respect the MPA!


Your local California spiny lobster


Pssttt…I am also one of the stars of WILDCOAST’s new San Diego Wildlife and Recreation Guide. Check me out here!