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The University of Maine Lobster Institute

Studies explain factors in determing lobster populations

New reports attribute warming waters, local differences in oceanography to rise and fall of American lobster populations in the Gulf of Maine

Two new studies published by University of Maine scientists are putting a long-standing survey of the American lobster’s earliest life stages to its most rigorous test yet as an early warning system for trends in New England’s iconic fishery. The studies point to the role of a warming ocean and local differences in oceanography to the rise and fall of lobster populations along the coast from southern New England to Atlantic Canada.

One of the papers, published in the scientific journal “Ecological Applications,” was led by Noah Oppenheim, who completed his research as a UMaine graduate student in 2016, with co-authors Richard Wahle, Damian Brady and Andrew Goode from UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, and Andrew Pershing from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. They report that the numbers of young-of-year lobsters populating shallow coastal nursery habitats each year, and temperature, provide a reasonably accurate prediction of trends in the lobster fishery some four to six years later.

Their model predicted regional differences in the recent record-breaking boom over the past decade, and now suggests the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery may be entering a period of decline; in effect a “cresting wave” of lobster abundance that may be heading northward in the region’s changing climate.

The University of Maine Lobster Institute serves to maximize the engagement of UMaine faculty, students and facilities with stakeholders in the lobster fishery in the U.S. and Canada. The articles can be found online at bit.ly/oppenheim2019(https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2006) and bit.ly/goode2019

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