Rock lobster in Brazil

Brazil is one of the top three countries producing rock lobster, together with Cuba and Nicaragua. Rock lobster, also known as the Caribbean Spiny Lobster, is found along the coastal waters in the northern part of Brazil close to Fortaleza. Here, two main species of rock lobster are caught: Panulirus argus (90%) and Panulirus laevicauda (10%). The focus of this page is only on Panulirus argus, as this species is caught more often and is preferred by the United States and Europe because of its nicer color and two remarkable spots on the back. Brazilian rock lobsters are well regarded for being tender and sweet. The large demand for this product results in quite high prices, easily reaching € 35.00/kg for the tails in the wholesale markets. Import duty for Brazil to Europe is 12.5%, where Nicaragua and Cuba have none. To maintain and protect the population from being overfished due to strong market demand, strict catch measures have been put in place by the Brazilian authorities like catch seasons and minimum size regulations. Eight of the bigger lobster companies hired Cedepesca to do a study of the lobster in Brazilian waters with the aim to give a more sustainable outlook of the industry. This study needs at least two more years after which the eight companies will issue a kind of sustainability certification for Brazilian lobster.

Rock lobster

Sourcing news

Wild rock lobster production and export statistics

Species wise production

Source: FAO (2017)

Since 2010 there has been no Brazilian authority that kept statistics on national fishing practices, so only FAO data is used. The Brazilian lobster fishery is one of the biggest of the spiny lobster fisheries in the world, due to suitable environmental conditions. Capture production for the P. argus has been relatively steady since 2012, being around

6,000 - 7,000 MT per year.

Overfishing, illegal catches and capture before reaching reproductive maturity are major problems for the yearly production and stock volume of rock lobster along the coast of Brazil. As the high incidence level of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is a critical concern, Seafood Watch, among others sustainability programs, have rated the rock lobster in the southwest Atlantic Ocean on their avoid list. Brazilian authorities and the bigger fishing companies work to reduce the risk of illegal fishing, and regulations have been established to protect the rock lobster population.

Export markets

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

As Brazil’s warm waters gives the lobster tails a unique sweet taste, the Brazilian P. argus is highly sought after in the international market. Apart from the United States, France and Spain are big importers of rock lobster. However, some Brazilian exporters also sell their product to other countries

like Japan, Emirates and Egypt. It is a niche market as only some importers can afford to pay for a container load. There is no real difference between origins; Nicaragua, Brazil and Cuba have a similar quality and prices are more or less the same. Brazilian lobster is a little bit cheaper but the extra import duty of 12.5% makes the end price similar.

Even though a decrease of export to the United States occurred in 2016, other markets increased their import of the rock lobster from Brazil. Vietnam entered the Brazilian rock lobster market for the first time in 2011 and is showing a significant increase, from importing 67 MT in 2015 to counting for nearly 20% (442 MT) of the total export of Brazilian rock lobster in 2016. It is likely that Vietnam is trading these volumes illegally to China through Hai Phong. The European Union market, especially France, also increased its import the same year, going from importing 116 MT to 427 MT.

Export products in 2016 (tonnes)

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

The majority of the rock lobster is exported frozen (whole cooked and raw tails). Frozen, raw, whole lobster for export purposes is difficult to find because of the extra health risks associated with the heads. However, there are some Brazilian companies which sell the whole product alive. Companies like Aloha Seafood and Ultracongelados Delfin

import full container loads of bulk whole cooked and raw tails, which, in their processing plants, they prepare for retail- cutting in halves, individually packed and labelled, etc. They also sell in the lobsters in the original 10 lbs packages, of course, but their customers sell the rock lobster to restaurants and shops piece by piece. A retail packing of 500 grams in a tray easily reaches € 65.00/kg in a supermarket.

Production systems

Supply Chain

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Risk assessment

Environmental risks

  • Artificial barriers, used by artisanal fishermen, are not always made of environmentally friendly materials
  • IUU and overfishing
  • Disturbance and damage of the natural habitat of the reefs
  • Catch of small, juvenile lobsters putting in danger the future of the species

Social risks

  • Workers safety and rights on vessels and in processing plants
  • Informality, illegality, and corruption in governmental institutions

Quality and supply chain risks

  • Sensitivity to diseases and pollutants; in the sea there are no barriers against disease, algae blooms, bacteria, etc. which can cause high mortality rates
  • Climate change
  • Lack of international certifications like Marine Stewardship Council and Friends of the Seas

Species in Brazil

Click on the species and find out more about the species in Brazil