DV-09-012 Lobster Settlement Index 20th Anniversary Workshop
In the 1980s, a disconnect between what lobstermen were seeing at sea and what scientists were saying led to a new approach to marine ecology. Scientists began to recognize the importance of larval dynamics to the “supply-side” of fish populations. In 1987, Sea Grant provided funds to support development of a method to identify and quantify lobster nursery habitat. With successful demonstration of “larval suction sampling,” researchers were able to show a link between larval settlement and recruitment of adult lobsters on the sea floor. Later, scientists found they could follow year classes through time, from the moment they settled on the bottom to their adult stage.
Since that first Sea Grant funding over 20 years ago, the Lobster Settlement Index has expanded to over 60 sampling sites in other lobster producing regions in New England and Atlantic Canada. Data from the long-term monitoring has provided valuable insights into the pre- and post-settlement processes influencing lobster recruitment, as well as promising signs for a forecasting tool. The index has been included in the most recent federal stock assessments as an indicator of the health of the lobster resource. In Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, state managers have taken over monitoring, showing that technology transfer is possible.
The Index has been leveraged for numerous research projects funded by NOAA, NSF, and NASA and has contributed to some 26 peer-reviewed publications, including an Editor’s Choice paper in Science. In June 2009, scientists, students, and managers came together at a workshop on Burnt Island in Boothbay Harbor to review accomplishments and prioritize future work, and to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Lobster Settlement Index.