While landings of lobster in the Gulf of Maine have hit recordbreaking highs, the number of young lobsters appears to be declining, and marine scientists are trying to figure out why.
That’s just one of the many topics being examined at the 11th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management that’s taking place in Maine this week.
This marks the first time the conference has been held in New England. Previous editions of the conference were held in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Japan, and Norway. The only other time it was hosted in the United States was in 2000, when it was held in Florida.
Richard A. Wahle of the University of Maine says the number of young lobsters is falling in the Gulf of Maine despite years of record-breaking harvests, according to the Associated Press.
Wahle’s American Lobster Settlement Index quantifies the population of baby lobsters at dozens of sites in New England and Canada every year. Most monitoring sites from New Brunswick to Cape Cod reported some of the lowest levels since the late 1990s or early 2000s, and scientists and fishermen are working to better understand this trend, according to the Associated Press.
The conference, which is being chaired by Wahle and Kari L. Lavalli of Boston University, kicked off Sunday with informal icebreaker activities, live music by a fiddle band, and plenty of New England clam chowder.
The confab, which runs until Friday in Portland, is expected to draw more than 200 lobster biologists, oceanographers, fishery managers, and lobstermen.
The schedule includes dozens of presentations and panel discussions, and sessions with titles like “The Hunger Games: how starvation affects attractiveness of lobsters used to bait traps in the Florida spiny lobster fishery,” and “From lobsters to dollars: an economic analysis of the distribution supply chain in Maine.”
Other topics to be addressed include diseases and parasites, population genetics, climate change, and the impact of “ghost fishing,” which occurs when lobster traps are lost and abandoned.