DV-19-19: The Lobster Gangs of Maine in a changing fishery

Dr. Chris Petersen
College of the Atlantic

According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, lobster landings have been increasing since 1985, with over 132 million pounds landed in Maine during 2016. The lobster fishery has historically remained viable, even when other local fisheries have not. This is likely the result of the strong conservation ethics and self-regulating practices lobstermen have been implementing for years. Examples of these practices include voluntary trap limits and v-notching (a “v” mark on the tail flipper of a female lobster to indicate a known breeding individual). Within the lobster fishery there is also a strong sense of territoriality and group, or “gang” identity. However, with recent advancements in gear, boat-building, and navigation, more people are entering the lobster fishery, which is a potential threat to the long-term sustainability of the fishery and can strain pre-existing territory agreements.

This study aims to gain an understanding of the social, economic, and ecological impacts the expansion of offshore territories has on lobstermen in the fishing communities of Mount Desert Island, Little Cranberry Island, Lamoine, and Hancock. Researchers will observe participants on lobster vessels during the summer and winter months, conduct semi-structured interviews, and engage in the collaborative mapping of the industry’s fishing territories.

Sea Grant Funds: $1,890