News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 26, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, July 26, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, July 26, 2018
DMR funds lobster research with license plate fees

by Anne Berleant

Love lobster enough to pay to have one etched on your license plate? If the answer is yes, that extra fee goes into the Lobster Research, Education, and Development Fund, which awarded $340,000 in six grants this month. The grants will contribute to “improved understanding of lobster habitat, stock assessment, monitoring, impacts of management actions on the fishery, and how those can be integrated in a way that informs future management,” according to a July 17 Maine Department of Marine Resources press release.

Research project leaders will meet quarterly to share updates on research and ways to coordinate different projects, including research already under way in academic, management and industry. Stakeholders from those areas will provide input and advice, according to the press release.

“Maine’s lobster industry is our most valuable and is a critical piece of the economy of nearly every community along the coast,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “We know that change is happening in the Gulf of Maine and we want to be positioned with improved science to adapt to those changes.”

The projects awarded include three to University of Maine Marine Science Professor Yong Chen: $75,000 to develop scientific models that will project climate-driven changes in lobster distribution and habitat, and improve the ability of regulators to assess and manage lobster; $40,000 to evaluate the ability of current DMR monitoring programs to capture distribution shifts of lobster in the Gulf of Maine over time; and $75,000 to use computer simulations to evaluate and quantify the impacts of conservation measures used in the management of Maine lobster, such as size limits and v-notching.

University of Maine research scientist Kathy Mills and Andrew Pershing, Chief Scientific Officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, received $80,000 to develop a suite of indicators that show how lobster habitats and the Gulf of Maine ecosystem are changing spatially over time, and evaluate how those indicators may affect lobster populations.

University of Maine Professor Richard Wahle, PhD, was awarded $40,000 to evaluate the relationship between lobster larvae and zooplankton over time throughout the Gulf of Maine; and Marine Science Professor Robert Steneck, PhD, received $10,000 to evaluate the relationship between lobster populations and habitat along the Maine coast by assessing lobster larvae settlement, kelp forests, and the near-shore density of legal size and sublegal size lobsters.

“Each of these projects represents a significant contribution to the body of science that will inform the assessment and management of Maine’s most valuable fishery,” said Carl Wilson, director of the Maine Department of Marine Resources Science Bureau.

Smaller $5,000 grants were awarded to two University of Maine professors/research scientists, a Hood College biology professor and a Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences research scientist, to contribute additional expertise and data from their own research on related issues.