Maine lobstermen protect known female lobster breeders from being landed and sold. This keeps the brood stock safe in the ocean. To do that, they notch a small “V” in the tail of a female lobster which is carrying eggs using a special V Notch tool.
The practice began as early as 1917 when lobstermen decided to take it upon themselves to conserve the egg-bearing females to ensure an abundance of young lobsters in the future. The state V notch rule was put into place in the 1950’s and Maine’s lobster fishery has benefited every since. Now it is illegal for a notched female lobster to be landed in the state. As one Downeast lobsterman said, “We are benefiting right now from the stewardship of previous generations. I started on deck and learned that V-notching is simply what you do.” Studies have shown that cutting a new v-notch into a tail does not hurt them as the notch is made in their tough carapace nor does it make lobsters more susceptible to disease.
Since the mid-1980s, Maine landings have exploded from an annual average catch of 20 million pounds to the 95 million pounds landed in 2010. With such high landings, the practice of v-notching has become very important to scientists as one means to explain the continued high lobster population in the Gulf of Maine. A longstanding and accepted practice of the Maine lobster fishery, v-notching is a cornerstone of conservation and management.Kathleen Reardon, Maine DMR Lobster Sea Sampling Coordinator. MLA Newsletter