Lobster Initiative Projects Underway

In 2019, Maine Sea Grant was awarded a $2 million grant to fund research aimed at understanding physical and chemical changes affecting lobster in the Gulf of Maine as well as a regional lobster extension program. The funds were awarded to support seven two-year projects and seven four-year extension projects. A second round of funding is anticipated this year.
Rick Wahle, director of the University of Maine Lobster Institute and a research professor in the School of Marine Sciences, was awarded a two-year $399,293 grant to examine the disconnect between historic highs in lobster egg production in the Gulf of Maine with lows in juvenile recruitment.

University of Maine scientist Damian Brady was awarded a two-year $399,994 grant to explore the potential effects of warming on lobsters’ early stages. Brady and colleagues will examine how climate-induced shifts in larval development time and settlement habitat affect lobsters’ early life history.

Alexa Dayton of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute will examine the severe declines in lobster and lobster fisheries in southern New England in 2010 and Australia in 2009. Her team will assess what management adaptations were considered or acted upon and how the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery might prevent a significant economic contraction in the face of expected landing declines and increased operating costs.

Tracy Pugh of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries will work to fill in gaps in growth data, particularly for large offshore lobsters, in the U.S. Lobster Stock Assessment. The ability of the stock assessment to accurately assess the status and trajectory of lobster is critical to its sustainable management.

Emily Rivest of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science will research how changes in temperature and ocean acidification affect lobster fertility and the ratio of the number of births to the size of the population. The team’s findings will be used to improve estimates of the effects of multiple stressors on the Gulf’s natural systems and provide baselines for representative physiological markers for future work.

Kathy Mills of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute will examine data and case studies to understand the consequences of the major downturn in the southern New England lobster fishery. The team will evaluate how lessons may be applicable to lobstermen and communities in the Gulf of Maine and be relevant in planning for resilience and adaptation in culturally, socially and economically important fishing communities.

Jason Goldstein of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve will assess the impacts of warming water on the movements of sexually mature female lobsters and the fate of their larvae. In southern New England, lobsters have moved to deeper, cooler offshore water. The same trend appears to be underway in the Gulf of Maine.