Sea Grant announced new funding for research aimed at understanding physical and chemical changes affecting American lobster (Homarus americanus) in the Gulf of Maine as well as a regional lobster extension program. Collectively, the research projects and regional extension program comprise the Sea Grant American Lobster Initiative.
The seven research projects were chosen through a competitive processes that included review by subject matter experts. The research competition solicited proposals aimed at addressing one or more of the following priorities:
Increased understanding of life history parameters, including but not limited to, migration, growth, and maturity;
Larval studies and early biology;
Spatial distribution; and
Socio-economic lessons learned from Southern New England as they pertain to Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.
In addition to new baseline research, Sea Grant is launching a regional lobster extension program designed to work with communities to link lobster research with the industry, resource managers, and other stakeholders across the region, who can both use the results and inform additional studies and decisions.
While scientific expertise on American lobster may be broadly distributed geographically, the stakeholders that can benefit from that research are concentrated in the northeast region. The newly created regional lobster extension program will ensure that industry and management stakeholders across the northeast region benefit from the research conducted to support American lobster and its fishery. Additionally, the extension program informs research and management decisions by amplifying the voices of stakeholders and understanding needs, emerging trends, and other information gained only by living the life of the lobster industry.
The Sea Grant Northeast Regional Lobster Extension Program is a regionally coordinated American lobster extension program which will complement and enhance the National Sea Grant American Lobster Research Initiative and address Sea Grant goals related to the national focus areas, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture and Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development. Maine Sea Grant will provide leadership and overall coordination for the effort, and the New Hampshire, MIT, Woods Hole, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York Sea Grant programs will lead locally relevant components that contribute to the regional effort. These programs will each lead extension activities, to both serve local needs and contribute to the collective goal and objectives of the Regional Lobster Extension Program.
The American lobster (Homarus americanus) is one of the most iconic modern American fisheries, and total U.S. landings of lobster have steadily increased over the past 35 years. Today, the landing value of the American lobster fishery is estimated at about USD 666.7 million, one of the largest and most valuable fisheries on the Atlantic coast. In a 2016 report, the American lobster was the most valuable species landed in the nation.
Lobster boat discarding sizes below what is allowed (Photo: NOAA)
The state of Maine, where more than 80 percent of lobsters harvested in the U.S. were landed in 2016, reported an 18 percent drop in catch volume in 2017 followed by an upswing in 2018. The recruitment failure experienced in southern New England and its subsequent impacts on the lobster fishery have raised concerns that a similar failure could occur in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Banks after years of record harvests. Understanding the factors leading to recruitment failures and the socioeconomic implications are critical to preserving the American lobster fishery.
As the research projects and extension program are conducted, the National Sea Grant Office will play a coordination role to strengthen the connections between science, management and stakeholders.
YouTube video: In Maine, Sustainable Lobster Fishing Is a Family Tradition | Great Big Story
The selected research projects are:
- Bridging the ‘Great Disconnect’: Linking the Gulf of Maine pelagic food web to lobster recruitment dynamics
University of Maine, PI Wahle
- Fish Less, Earn More: Assessing Maximum Economic Yield Effort levels in Gulf of Maine's Lobster Fishery, Incorporating Lessons Learned from Southern New England, Canada and Australia
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, PI Dayton
- Growth in large offshore lobsters: addressing a critical data gap in the US Lobster Stock Assessment
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, PI Pugh
- Projecting Climate-related Shifts in American Lobster Habitat and Connectivity: Integrated Modeling to Inform Sustainable Management
University of Maine, PI Brady
- Reproduction in an era of rapid environmental change: the effect of multiple stressors on reproductive success, embryogenesis, and emerging larvae of the American lobster
Virginia Institute of Marine Science, PI Rivest
- Resilience, adaptation, and transformation in lobster fishing communities
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, PI Mills
- The potential influence of increased water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine on the distribution of female American lobsters and the impacts of these distribution shifts on larval recruitment
Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, PI Goldstein