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Sea Sampling Provides Vital Lobster Fishery Data

This spring the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) welcomed Kristyn Kleman as its new sea sampling and ventless trap program coordinator. Prior to joining DMR, Kleman was a research associate in the Wahle Laboratory at the University of Maine where she managed the American Lobster Settlement Index (ALSI), a multi-decade database of lobster settlement rates from sites throughout New England and the Maritime provinces. She also coordinated the Lab’s deep water settlement sampling program, which was begun several years ago to assess expanding nursery habitat for juvenile lobsters in the Gulf of Maine’s deeper water.

“I love working with lobstermen. Any time I spend on the water I learn so much from them,” Kleman said. Before moving to Maine, Kleman spent much of her academic career in, around, or under the water. She received her M.S. in Marine Biology from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography at Nova University in Florida. She worked as the research coordinator at a non-profit marine science field station in Virginia, becoming involved in oyster aquaculture. As Kleman says with a laugh, “There isn’t an animal in the water that I haven’t studied.”

At DMR she is leading a team of three full-time sea samplers this summer and three additional staff who do sea sampling as well as other related projects.

Kristyn Kleman on the job. DMR photo.

DMR’s sea sampling program has produced crucial data on the composition of Maine’s lobster population each year since 1985. Lobstermen volunteer to take DMR samplers aboard their vessels each month. Each sea sampler then checks everything that comes up in a trap. The sea sampler collects general trip information, including final catch weight and price as well as gear characteristics and bait type. Biological information recorded includes lobster carapace length, sex, cull status, v-notch condition (if present), egg development stage, molt status and extent of any shell disease. Being on board the vessel allows the samplers to collected data on lobsters that are tossed back — V-notched females, egg-bearing females, and sublegals. Taken together these data provide regulators with critical information on the Maine lobster population.

What does it take to be a sea sampler? According to Kleman, the key characteristic is an upbeat disposition. “It can be long days, early morning start, poor weather. Not being prone to sea sickness is also a positive,” she said. Samplers must pay attention to the details of each lobster, measuring and noting traits of hundreds of lobsters on some of the season’s busiest days. “Yes, a positive attitude is huge,” Kleman emphasized. During the summer months, sea samplers go out with lobstermen three times each month in each zone. In the winter, samples are taken three times each month in each of NOAA’s three statistical areas off the Maine coast.

For Kleman, who is also a runner and avid hiker, the transition from the University of Maine to DMR has been largely tranquil. She enjoys the balance between working with lobstermen and as a scientist. The Gulf of Maine’s rapidly changing environment feeds her scientific interest in how oceanographic changes impact the biological communities in the Gulf.

Being out on a lobster boat scrutinizing what’s in each trap has its own thrill, however. “On my second sampling trip this year, out of Cutler, I got to see my first calico lobster. I was super excited to see this big healthy lobster come out of the trap!” she said.

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