Sustaining a thriving lobster fishery through science and community.
Lobster Expert Hears Local Lore
By Aaron Porter
Cowan, who heads the Lobster Institute in Friendship, is planning to
extend her bay-specific research from Muscongus Bay to East Penobscot
Bay in 2006.
Among other topics, Cowan learned that lobster fishing has been better down the bay in recent years; there are more seals around; and specific locations where egg-bearing females tend to congregate were disclosed.
Everyone doing well is working down the bay, said lobstermen Bob Williams during a discussion of last spring’s strong catch. He said herring runs that used to go up the bay are no longer serving as a food source for lobsters because they have moved elsewhere.
In addition, the fishermen said, predatory seals are driving lobsters to the safety of deeper water.
“Seals eat lobsters like you and I eat popcorn,” agreed lobsterman Dick Bridges.
Cowan noted that in her study of Muscongus Bay, many young lobsters that stayed in shallower reaches of the bay went out to deeper water when it was time to shed their shells.
The year-long research Cowan is looking to replicate in Penobscot Bay
tracked 191 egg-bearing female lobsters of various sizes and equipped
with acoustic transmitters and temperature recorders. By working with
lobstermen in the Muscongus Bay area, she was able to get 76 percent recovery
of the tagged lobsters.
Stonington lobsterman Ted Ames used a chart to point to specific areas
off the eastern end of the Fox Islands Thorofare where he said he’s
seen egg-bearing females congregate in the past. A short history of the
fishery in that few square miles of the bay followed, with other fishermen
She told the lobstermen the results of her Muscongus Bay study suggest
a few important behaviors or trends that must be confirmed with work from
“They’re not putting all their eggs in one basket. They’re spreading them out,” she said. “They’re enhancing stocks and mixing the genetic diversity.”
Lack of such large travelling lobsters and genetic diversity they distribute could have been a problem with the Long Island Sound lobster fishery that collapsed in the late 1990s. Cowan said lobstermen and researchers referred to the Sound lobsters as “pygmies” because of their consistently small size. That size, coupled with the fact that the stock hasn’t rebounded, could indicate that there wasn’t a population of large females to travel and reseed a lobster population along that coast.
Referring to the V-notching program allowing Maine lobstermen to protect egg-bearing females, and a maximum size limit allowing large lobsters to go forth and multiply, Cowan drew some supporting conclusions from her research. “Here’s a reason why what you’ve been doing really is a good thing,” she said.
The study she is proposing for Penobscot Bay would start in 2006, if funding to pay lobstermen and researchers is secured.
For information call the Penobscot East Resource Center 367-2708. firstname.lastname@example.org