R-04-04 The Effects of Herring Bait on Lobster Population Dynamics and the Benthic Community

Jonathan Grabowski
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Portland, ME 04112
207.563.3146 ext. 318

Erika Clesceri
University of Maine

Darling Marine Center
193 Clarks Cove Road
Walpole, ME 04573
207.563.3146 ext. 318

Several thousand tons of herring bait are used in the nearshore waters of Maine’s coast to support the lobster fishery. In the past two decades, lobster landings have increased dramatically, reaching levels twice the historic average. Determining what environmental factors are driving these high landings is important to sustaining coastal communities that rely on the lobster fishery as a significant part of the local economy.

Grabowski and his colleagues assessed the effects of herring bait on lobster diet and tissue production, and assessed lobster growth by using stomach content analysis, stable nitrogen isotope analysis, and mark-recapture experiments. They found that using Atlantic herring as bait for American lobsters enhances lobster growth and productivity, establishing the interactions between population dynamics and fisheries for herring and lobsters. Given that lobsters traditionally have been managed as a single species rather than as an integral component of the ecosystem, this modeling effort is an important step in the ongoing transition to an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. This project achieved an important goal of fostering meaningful collaborations between fishermen and scientists, which subsequently broadened researchers’ ability to disseminate the results to interested stakeholders throughout the coast of Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.

Results from this project were incorporated in another Sea Grant-supported project to develop an ecosystem model of the American lobster population. Dr. Grabowski presented the results of this research to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences (January 18, 2008, Chapel Hill, NC); Southern Maine Community College (October 23, 2007, South Portland, ME); 8th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management (September 23-28, 2007, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada); and Shoals Marine Lab (August 3, 2007, Appledore Island, ME).

2-year project, 2004-2006
Year 1: $75,000
Year 2:$55,000
Total : $130,000