MarineFisheries uses a 4-tiered approach to monitoring
the American lobster resource and fishery in Massachusetts'
coastal waters. The Coastal Lobster Investigations Project
is directly responsible for conducting an annual coastwide
commercial lobster sea sampling program which provides biological
and catch/effort data from six coastal regions during the
major lobstering season, May-November (since 1981).
A second annual sampling effort for EBP (early benthic phase/juvenile)
lobsters is conducted by SCUBA through suction sampling in
order to generate density indices of newly settled post-larval
lobsters (since 1995). This effort also delineates coastal
habitat important to the settlement of these juveniles and
thereby provides insight into potential impact of proposed
coastal alteration projects.
Year-round bottom temperature monitoring (since 1988) is
conducted with programmable electronic recorders at various
depths at seven coastal sites, north and south of Cape Cod.
Recorders are replaced annually by SCUBA.
Data from two additional projects also contribute to stock
evaluations. These include the MIS and Fisheries Statistics
Project which collates catch reports submitted by commercial
fishermen to provide landings and effort statistics on a monthly
and area basis (since 1967) and the Resource Assessment Project
which provides, through a bottom trawl survey, relative abundance
information on lobster and other species (since 1978).
Time series data generated by these sampling efforts together
with those from other states and National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS) allow us to contribute to coastwide stock assessments
as a function of our participation on the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) American Lobster Technical
Our ancillary research efforts have defined size at maturity,
fecundity, weight-length relationship, morphology, and migration
patterns in Massachusetts' coastal waters. Gross pathology
is also monitored.
The uniqueness of the Massachusetts coastline, with its role
in providing a temperature barrier at the southern end of
the Gulf of Maine, profoundly affects many marine species.
The potential effects of the geological and hydrographical
characteristics of our coastal environment on lobster reproductive
ecology are apparent and strongly influence recruitment and
subsequent commercial catches. We have discerned geographic
variation in morphology, size-frequency, migratory behavior,
growth rate, fecundity, and maturity. As a result, three lobster
groups (southern Gulf of Maine, outer Cape Cod, and Buzzards
Bay/Southern Cape Cod), differing in major population descriptors,
are defined by our data.
Project personnel serve as technical advisors to ASMFC Lobster
Conservation Management Teams crafting regional lobster management
plans. They also serve on the New England Fishery Management
Council Red Crab Plan Development Team and the ASMFC Northern
Shrimp Technical Committee.