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Teaming Up to Monitor Deep Water Lobster Habitats

A group of businesses involved in the lobster fishing industry have teamed up with the University of Maine to fund the sixth consecutive field season in 2021.

Red Lobster, Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-Op in Islesford, and Ready Seafood Co., a supplier and processor headquartered in Saco, helped fund a program that monitors the settlement of baby lobsters in deepwater habitats in the Gulf of Maine.

The deepwater monitoring is an extension of the American Lobster Settlement Index, which samples shallow water lobster habitats throughout New England and Atlantic Canada.

“Red Lobster is committed to supporting efforts to ensure there’s seafood to enjoy, now and for generations,” said Nelson Griffin, chief procurement and real estate officer at Red Lobster.

Photo courtesy: Portland Press Herald

The American Lobster Settlement Index is led by the University of Maine and was initiated in 1989 by Richard Wahle, a research professor in the School of Marine Sciences and director of the Lobster Institute.

Wahle expanded the monitoring in 2016 to include greater depths with novel bio-collectors deployed from fishing vessels, thanks to the collaboration with industry and the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

This new deepwater program has been powered by a combination of public and private support from its inception. Cooperating lobstermen hail from Casco Bay at the southwestern end of Maine’s coast to the Cutler shore Downeast. These locations represent contrasting thermal regimes in the Gulf of Maine.

Understanding how juvenile lobsters use deepwater habitats will help researchers better predict future population changes. DMR photo.

“Our findings are improving our understanding of how the lobster’s earliest life stages respond to changes in the environment and the implications of those changes for the future of the fishery,” Wahle says.

This year’s research will be made possible through gifts totaling $75,000 from Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-Op, Ready Seafood and Red Lobster.

“What I love about this project is that it is a real example of industry and science working together to improve the sustainability of Maine lobster,” said Curt Brown, a lobsterman and marine biologist with Ready Seafood. “We are humbled by the support of Red Lobster, Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op and UMaine.”

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