R-10-02 A comparative study of monitoring programs for coherence in quantifying the dynamics of American lobster fisheries in Maine

Yong Chen
218 Libby Hall
School of Marine Sciences
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469
Email Yong Chen

Carl Wilson
Maine Department of Marine Resources

The American lobster supports the most valuable commercial fishery in the northeastern U.S., and the fishery is critical to the Maine economy. Landings have increased steadily since the early 1970s and fishing effort is intense and increasing throughout the species’ range. Quantitative fisheries assessment plays a central role in fisheries management. Current stock assessment methods suggest that the Gulf of Maine stock is overexploited and vulnerable to collapse. Yet other studies and field observations suggest otherwise.

A total of nine sampling programs form the foundation of lobster stock assessment in Maine. The programs—from port sampling to trap surveys—vary in their history, design, data collected, and costs. Dr. Yong Chen of the University of Maine and Carl Wilson, doctoral student and chief lobster biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, compared the different lobster sampling programs to evaluate the effectiveness of current sampling in quantifying the lobster fishery. Chen and Wilson found that the current design of one sampling program, the bottom trawl survey, performs well in quantifying spatial and temporal variability of lobster in the Gulf of Maine, but redirecting survey efforts according to results from previous years would improve data collection. The research also found weaknesses in the lobster port sampling program, prompting the Department of Marine Resources to discontinue the program and reallocate the estimated $100,000 in annual savings to more effective sampling efforts. The framework developed in this study can be applied to other fisheries with multiple monitoring programs.

Final Report

Two-year project, 2010-2012
Total Sea Grant Funds $127,890