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