Maine Sea Grant staff and Maine-based researchers to advance multi-million dollar NOAA Sea Grant American Lobster Initiative (ALI), which announced its third round of funding.

Six newly-funded research projects, three of which are led by researchers in Maine, will fill critical knowledge gaps about how the American lobster (American Homarus) is affected by environmental changes in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and southern New England. The objective of this work is based on a specific language in the language of the appropriations for the 2021 fiscal year of Sea Grant.

One of the most iconic modern American fisheries, the American lobster is also one of the largest and most valuable single-species fisheries along the Atlantic coast. In 2020, the value of US lobster fishery landings was estimated at $ 524.5 million in the United States, according to NOAA Fisheries, whose Maine fishery was worth about $ 408 million. In Maine, lobsters represent about 80% of the value of landings from all fisheries combined. However, changes in ecosystems, changes in the food chain, and ocean acidification all pose threats to the American lobster fishery.

“Given the importance of lobster to Maine’s economy and culture, I am delighted that these new projects join the growing initiative,” said Amalia Harrington, member of the marine extension team. with Maine Sea Grant at UMaine and Regional Extension Coordinator for the US Lobster Initiative. “The more we learn now, the better prepared our lobster industry will be for the future. “

The American Lobster Initiative supports both scientific research and a Northeast Regional Sea Grant extension program, coordinated by Maine Sea Grant, to increase the resilience of the American lobster industry to biological, economic and social ecosystem changes.

Over the past three years, the American Lobster Initiative has invested more than $ 5.4 million in research and extension projects, including more than $ 2.5 million to fund 10 projects led by researchers in Maine . This year, more than $ 660,000 will support new research at the University of Maine, the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Damian Brady, Associate Professor at University of Maine School of Marine Sciences, will expand the work of decades of modeling American lobster larval transport to include the dynamics associated with prey availability. Through the team’s work with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the Lobster Institute, the study will build a flexible ecosystem-based early life history model capable of answering fundamental questions of industry members and stakeholders regarding changes in ocean conditions, distribution of larvae and their relationship to their food supply.

Rebecca Peters, Marine Resources Scientist at Maine Department of Marine Resources, will partner with the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries to understand what current and new predators of American lobsters exist in the Gulf of Maine, particularly with regard to juvenile lobsters. To answer this question, they will use current surveys to sample the stomachs of seven species that eat lobster: Atlantic cod, white hake, red hake, Atlantic halibut, Atlantic mackerel, the black bass and the striped bass. This team of researchers, state agency scientists, and industry members will share the results with federal research partners, members of the lobster industry, and Maine students. The research will provide data on potential lobster predators and allow managers to use this data to update current single-species American lobster assessments and work on ecosystem models for the Gulf of Maine.

Jason Goldstein, Research Director at Wells National Estuary Research Reserve, will endeavor to assess the overall health and quality of egg-bearing American lobsters and examine how environmental factors of climate change in the Gulf of Maine may impact this key phase of the life cycle. The data obtained from this project will be used to inform future stock assessments and to lay the foundation for a long-term monitoring program that understands the links between the health of berried lobsters and climate change. Stakeholder engagement and awareness will serve to link results to the commercial lobster fishery, fishery managers, students and the public through data sharing, presentations, artistic visualizations and opportunities for learning and experience for students.

For a list of research projects funded in 2019 and 2020, visit the American Lobster Initiative website.

Contact: Hannah Robbins, [email protected]