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The Courier-Gazette

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Science of lobsters takes center stage in Friendship Harbor

by Daniel Dunkle

FRIENDSHIP—Commercial lobster operations are being converted into scientific research centers on islands in Friendship harbor.

Accomplished marine biologists have come to do research that has never been done before on the town's most precious resource— lobsters.

The Lobster Conservancy moved to the town in May after it received a donation of three lobster pounds from U.S.I. Corporation in Rockland. One of the pounds— a six-acre natural cove on Friendship Long Island—will be the first large natural laboratory where researchers can conduct controlled scientific experiments with lobsters in their natural environment, according to conservancy Executive Director Sara Ellis. The cove has been used as a commercial lobster pound since the 1800s, Ellis said. Before the conservancy moved to Friendship its base of operations was Orrs Island in Harpswell.

The conservancy's goal is to preserve lobsters through scientific research and education, Ellis said. She said the conservancy hopes to fill in some of the gaps in scientific knowledge about the crustaceans. The research focuses on the abundance of lobsters in coastal regions, hatching seasons, nursery grounds, breeding seasons, and maternity grounds.

The conservancy wants to learn more about the growth rates of hard-shell lobsters. Researchers study lobsters by injecting magnetic tags the size of a grain of sand into the lobster's walking leg, Ellis said. In the past tagging lobsters was impossible because external tags would be lost when the lobsters shed their shells during the process of molting. With the new process researchers capture lobsters they have tagged in the past and record how much they have grown since they were tagged. This tells scientists how lobsters grow in the wild. The organization shares the information it gathers with wildlife managers, Ellis said.

Two pounds located on Little Morse Island have also been donated to the conservancy, Ellis said, but are in various stages of disrepair. If they can be put in working order the organization could set up replicate studies in the three pounds, another first, Ellis said.

The conservancy plans to establish the Friendship Lobster Laboratory at the pound keeper's house on Friendship Long Island, Ellis said. The organization also hopes to convert the pound keeper's house on Little Morse Island into a Marine Science School. Ellis who is the conservancy's only employee is working out of an office the conservancy rents above the Friendship Market on Main Street.


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