Sea Grant has announced $1.2 million in support of Sea Grant’s American Lobster Research Program to continue addressing emergent needs and priorities associated with this fishery. This year’s funded projects shift focus on operational needs, specifically related to gear technology implementation, research and adoption.
The American lobster fishery, one of the largest and most valuable single-species fisheries along the Atlantic coast, faces economic uncertainties due to recent regulatory changes affecting where and how the lobster industry operates. While previous funding for the American Lobster Research Program addressed ecological understanding of the species in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and southern New England, the fishery’s sustainability also relies on the economic resilience of the industry. For this reason, Sea Grant’s fourth year of research funding supports partnerships and collaborative approaches to address technological questions impacting the fishery.
The two extramural research projects selected for funding will enhance research on the development and operationalisation of gear technologies in the American lobster fishery to better understand and address the opportunities and barriers associated with bringing gear technology to commercial scale in the fishery.
Kevin Staples from the Maine Department of Marine Resources will lead the testing and evaluation of various gear modification technologies aboard commercial vessels, thereby producing information on gear system viability, compliance with federal regulations and feasibility of use by fishermen. Erin Pelletier from the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation will lead the testing of data imaging tools and various ship-to-shore communication modes for providing lobstermen with real-time information that they can use to inform their fishing activities.
The projects were chosen through a competitive process that included review by subject matter experts, and the projects require at least a 50% match in non-federal funds.
Sea Grant continues to support the American lobster fishery through Sea Grant’s American Lobster Initiative, which links lobster research with stakeholders who need and can use the results. In parallel with the research program, the Initiative established a Northeast Regional Lobster Extension Program in 2019 in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island to increase the American lobster industry’s resilience by providing technical assistance and building bridges among the fishing communities, resource managers and researchers.
Additional funding for the extension program was provided in 2021 and approximately $850,000 in federal funding is being made available for the continuation of extension activities from 2023 through 2026.
The American Lobster Research Program funded seven projects in fiscal year 2019, nine projects in fiscal year 2020 and six projects in fiscal year 2021 related to the effects of environmental change on American lobster and socio-ecological factors in fishery management decisions.