The American lobster (Homarus americanus) is
one of the highest valued species exploited by New England fisheries.
Further, it is the only species in the world to have been targeted
for 150 years and is more abundant today than ever in the past.
Dr. Carl Walters (from University of British Columbia) stated that:
Lobster walking through typical boulder
"If we look at fisheries that have been successful
over the long term, the reason for their success is not to be found
in assessment, learning or management models, but in the existence
of a spatial accident, something about the spatial structure of
population dynamics interacting with regulatory systems, or about
the behavior of the species and fishers, that creates a large scale
refuge for a substantial segment of the spawning population."
Lobsters are captured using traps that are very size
selective. The traps contain escape vents that allow under-sized
lobsters to walk out, only retaining legal size animals. In addition,
large egg-bearing female lobsters are released and marked, telling
the next lobsterman that this individual is a known spawner and
should be released to spawn again.
Map depicting dive locations for the lobster
census of 1999 and 2001. Click image for larger view
Along the coast of Maine, lobster recruitment is greater
in and west of Penobscot Bay than anywhere to the east. Based on
the east to west flow of the Maine coastal current, this pattern
would suggest that female lobsters release their eggs in an area
that transports young lobsters to these coastal nursery areas.
Finding the broodstock lobsters that would "fuel"
such recruitment patterns is the objective of NOAA's Undersea Research
Program (NURP) supported research of Dr. Robert Steneck from the
University of Maine. Using remotely operated vehicle (ROV) technologies
provided by the NURP Center at the University of Connecticut, Dr.
Steneck surveyed 50 locations along 278 km of coastline from Boothbay,
Maine, to the Bay of Fundy. Video transects were conducted using
the Phantom III S2 ROV off the R/V Connecticut. Lobsters
were located, both in the open and within burrows, and measured
using paired parallel laser beams mounted in line with high-resolution
Phantom III S2
ROV, equipped with forward
and down-looking video cameras, being launched off the R/V
Connecticut to conduct lobster census.
Parallel lasers (highlighted in circles)
are used as a scale to measure lobsters from video imagery.
Data are still being analyzed but, when completed,
will allow managers to discuss options for spatial management of
broodstock lobsters, such as marine reserves, to further assure
sustainable use of this valuable resource.