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Resource Management

Lobster Sea Sampling Program 

The DMR sea sampling program places trained observers onto commercial lobster boats. Catch and effort information is collected and biological data is recorded for each lobster caught. The data collected reflects what comes up in that lobsterman’s trap for that day of the year. Compiling this data enables the DMR to see geographic, temporal and biological trends in the near shore lobster fishery.

Over the past sixteen years of the sea sampling program, the DMR has compiled a list of lobstermen who are interested in taking out a sea sampler. Sea samplers schedule trips with a lobsterman who will be actively fishing the following day. A typical day of sea sampling begins between 4 and 7 a.m. and may end anywhere from 2 to 6  p.m. A sea sampler brings aboard all that he/she will need: a survival suit, a tote, measuring and recording equipment.

While aboard, the sea sampler and lobsterman determine the most efficient and least intrusive way to sample. The sea sampler will ask general trip information including soak time and string type. Throughout the trip the sampler will ask to record geographical and depth information or will be equipped with his/her own GPS unit to record this data automatically. From the first trap to the last the sampler measures each lobster, notes sex, cull status, v-notch condition (if present), egg development stage, and molt status.

Discarded lobsters, V-notches and sublegals, represent an important component of sea sampling data. In Maine, V-notching is taken very seriously and is an important component to the current Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission lobster management plan.  DMR places V-notches into six different categories. The following pictures represent each v-notch condition.       

Following the sea sampling trip. the sampler will listen to the tape and enter his/her data into the DMR database. At the end of the sampling season, all of the trip data in compiled and quality-checked. Then trip reports, which provide the major catch and effort information from that sampling day, are sent to the fisherman who hosted that trip. A summary of catch/effort statistics from that sampling season are also sent to the host fishermen, as well as to those fishermen who are on DMR’s volunteer list. 

In 2001 the DMR partnered with Island Institute and their Island Fellows, resulting in a larger sampling team and better access to island communities that were previously under sampled. The additional manpower allowed DMR to exceed the number of trips completed in the previous year. In 2000, 148 sampling trips were completed. With the help of the Island Fellows, 173 trips were completed in 2001. Thank you Island Institute!

Currently, there are two types of sampling designs: fishery-dependent and fishery-independent. Both sea sampling and port sampling are considered fishery-dependent modes of data collection and both track trends within the lobster fishery. Port sampling data provides a look at the legal lobster catch, while sea sampling data captures the total catch, including discarded lobsters. The sea sampling data is then used by DMR to report trends within the fishery for that year, and is compared to previous years. This information is disseminated through zone council presentations, The Fishermen’s Forum, and through the DMR newsletter.  In the future, this information will also be used in the next generation of stock assessment models. 

For the 2001 sampling season 33% of all legal size females recorded were protected by a v-notch.  V-Notching is the conservation tool used by lobstermen on the coast of Maine to ensure brood stock protection for generations to come. For 2002 DMR will be improving V-notch data collection within the sea sampling program in order to document potential changes resulting from the new mandatory V-notching regulations. 

Results of the Lobster Sea Sampling Program can now be viewed on the DMR’s Internet Map Server site by clicking here.

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Lobster Port Sampling Program

The commercial port sampling program began in 1967 as Maine’s first comprehensive survey of the lobster fishery and continues today.  In 1967 there was extremely limited information on the commercial catch and importance of the lobster fishery in Maine.  Because of sampling constraints, it was determined to sub-sample the commercial catch to characterize the fishery each month. 

From April through December, 10 lobster dealers are randomly selected to be sampled.  During the hours of 12:00 to 5:00 PM, DMR staff surveys lobster boats that land their catch at the selected dealer, and a portion of their catch is measured for specific biological information. 

Questions lobstermen are asked during the dockside interview cover most aspects of lobster fishing such as: trap hauled that day, bait used, type of traps, hours fished, number of crew, number of traps fishing, generalized area of fishing, average depth fished  and time traps were left soaking between trap hauls. 

A subset, or cluster sample, is taken from each fisherman’s catch for biological characterization.  Carapace length, weight, sex, cull status and shell hardness is determined for each lobster.

During the 35th consecutive sampling year, ten dealers were randomly selected each month 

from January through December.  Dockside interviews were conducted on the sampling days to collect catch/effort information and biological data.  For the 2002 sampling season:           

  • 494 boats were sampled at 60 ports

  • Sampled boats landed 71.5 tons of lobster

  • Biological data from 3.11 tons of lobster

  • Random sampled  catch 51% male 49% female

  • Mean weight of harvested lobsters was for the third year 1.29 pounds

  • Mean length was 89.3 mm carapace length

  • Overall catch rate was 1.47 pounds per trap haul 

The estimated landings, from sampling expansions, are 54.9 million pounds for 2002.  Over the 35-year time series the estimated landings have been, on average, approximately 65% of the actual reported landings.  The estimated landings for 2002 are the highest to date and represent a 280% increase over the 35 year times series average of 19.0 million pounds.

Results of the Lobster Port Sampling Program can now be viewed on the DMR’s Internet Map Server site by clicking here.

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