Drifters on the Loose

Scientists at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, the University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and Saint Joseph’s College of Maine are trying to determine how warming ocean waters might influence the movements of female lobsters carrying eggs and how changes could impact the settlement of larval-stage lobsters in inshore nursery grounds. The working hypothesis is that females will seek colder water and thus move further offshore. This might, in turn, influence where their larvae are transported by ocean currents. To address this question, the research team is deploying ocean drifters designed to mimic how lobster larvae will drift from four different locations that range from 2 to 16 miles from the coast of New Hampshire.

If you see one of these before August 1, leave it in the water. If you see one after August 1, bring it in and call the phone number on the drifter.

A total of 24 drifters were released in late June. These drifters are largely submerged, with their top floating just above the surface. Each drifter is equipped with a GPS unit and an orange flashing light. Lobster larvae are typically in the water column for about 30 days before they settle to the bottom. Therefore, it is important to make sure the drifters also spend at least a month in the water. If lobstermen see one BEFORE August 1 of this year, they are asked to leave it in the water. If you see one AFTER August 1 the researchers would like it returned to them. There is a phone number on the unit to call or text; project staff will come to pick the drifter up.

The research team is made up of Jason Goldstein and Ben Gutzler (Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve); Joshua Carloni (New Hampshire Fish and Game Department); Win Watson and Tom Lippmann (University of New Hampshire); and Steve Jury (Saint Joseph’s College of Maine).

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