Monday, August 21, 2006

Connecticut Set to Start Lobster Conservation Program

Connecticut will start paying commercial lobstermen to cut a notch in the tails of legal-sized female lobsters and then throw them back into Long Island Sound, in the hopes that giving the females another couple of years to reproduce will increase the overall population. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved the program last week.

The program works as a conservation method because if a lobsterman catches a lobster with a notched tail, he has to throw it back. The tail grows back after the lobster molts twice, which gives it more time to reproduce.

This Connecticut Post story about the program quotes a Bridgeport lobsterman named Louis Gomes:

Gomes is catching a few lobsters in each of the 400 traps he sets out, but most are below legal size. They are pulling about 100 pounds of legal lobster from the traps — down from 400 pounds before the die off.

In 1998, a record-high 3.7 million pounds of lobster was landed in the Sound, but a year later the industry was devastated by a die off that killed more than a million lobsters in the western Sound. In 2004, Connecticut lobstermen landed about 658,000 pounds of lobster, according to preliminary figures from the state Department of Environmental Protection.


No one knows of course what number constitutes a sustainable lobster harvest from the Sound, but my guess is that 3.7 million pounds is unrealistically high. Lobster fishing in the Sound has for decades been a crude form of fish-farming or ranching: the bait in the lobster pots would attract lobsters of all sizes but the ones that were too short to keep were thrown back after they ate, so the lobstermen were essentially feeding them until they reached legal size. From what Gomes says above, that’s happening again, which I suppose is good news.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom,

Welcome back from vacation.

Glad to hear that CT is employing this program. I commented anonomously to your post back on March 6 with my observations from a long-ago vacation in Maine, where they've been notching tails. Sam provided important details. I found this link that says you can sex a lobster in the absence of roe. Can lobstermen (no sexism intended) routinely do this "on the fly"?

11:20 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Uh-oh, I thought my ears were burning! I don't rightly know if the deckman will ID the sex although they sure look for green eggs and size. By the way, many of the "deckmen" are women, just thought I'd add that. /sam

3:23 PM  

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