Monitoring the Offshore Lobster Fishery

The effective long-term management of the lobster fishery requires a thorough understanding of the resource and the impact the fishery has on that resource. It is generally accepted that cooperative efforts involving members of the industry, biologists and managers are likely to have the most success both collecting the appropriate data and developing management strategies that are appropriate and acceptable to all parties concerned. The overall goal of this project was to develop a monitoring program for the offshore lobster fishery so that data were collected that would assist the development of management practices appropriate to that fishery. Most data was collected directly by members of the industry, from experimental traps integrated into strings of commercial traps. Data from lobsters was entered into electronic spreadsheets, along with the GPS coordinates of the study site and bottom temperature data downloaded from temperature sensors attached to one of the experimental traps. These data were automatically transferred to us via email and used to assess the: 1) size frequency composition of catch from offshore vessels; 2) temporal and spatial patterns of abundance of all lobsters, especially berried females; 3) temporal and spatial patterns of shell disease and; 4) the relationship between the distribution of lobsters and bottom temperature. In addition, a range of sizes of female lobsters were examined from different areas of the fishery to determine the size when 50% of them reach sexual maturity and if this is correlated with water temperature. All these data are being used to improve our current management practices and thus ensure the maintenance of a sustainable offshore lobster fishery for years to come.