NECAN industry webinar: OCA impacts on lobster

Time: 12 December 2018, 8 – 9pm CET


Richard Wahle, University of Maine School of Marine Sciences
The American lobster has become a poster child for the impacts of environmental change on coastal ecosystems and economies. This talk sets the stage for two in-depth presentations to follow on the effects of warming and acidification on lobster larvae, and an industry perspective on the future of the fishery. Dynamic food webs and climate seem to be changing faster than fishery managers and the industry can adapt. In southern New England elevated summer heat stress, hypoxia and disease have led to widespread collapse of the region’s once thriving lobster fishery. But in the cooler Gulf of Maine ocean warming has reinforced the top-down effects of depleting predatory ground fish, such as Atlantic cod, triggering an unprecedented boom in lobster production, one that has elevated the species to its current status as the most valuable single-species fishery in the US and Canada. The future of this fishery is far from certain. The northward advance of shell disease and southern predators, and changes in the pelagic and benthic food web, pose real threats. And with few alternative fisheries, coastal communities in Maine and Atlantic Canada are now perilously dependent on this single fishery. Traditional single-species fishery stock assessment does not fully capture the drivers of population dynamics, and it is increasingly important to embrace ecosystem-based management and forecasting tools that account for environmental interactions. The iconic lobster therefore has broad relevance as a case study of the sometimes contrasting impacts of environmental change and exploitation on our living marine resources and coastal communities.

Curt Brown, Ready Seafood Company
Three years ago Ready Seafood began a unique research collaboration with the University of Maine to improve the understanding of how lobster settlement varies by depth along Maine’s coast. After two years of Maine Sea Grant funding, Ready Seafood, a wholesale lobster company based in Portland, Maine, stepped up to fund this project going forward so that this important research could continue. To the best of the company’s knowledge, this was the first example of a private company funding public research. This team of scientists, fishermen, and Ready Seafood employees has been hard at work wrapping up this year’s field season and are starting to see some interesting patterns. This industry-science collaboration fills a knowledge gap in the understanding of Maine’s most valuable natural resource and has benefited the business on many fronts.

Jesica Waller, Maine Department of Marine Resources
Despite the commercial importance of the American lobster, Homarus americanus, there has been little research on how changing conditions in the Gulf of Maine will impact lobster growth, development, and reproduction. During this presentation, Jesica will summarize the research she conducted at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the University of Maine to examine the response of lobster larvae to a predicted end-century pCO2 and temperature. This study highlighted the interactive effects of these two stressors and offered insight into larval development and physiology under these conditions. Jesica will also describe work currently underway at the Maine Department of Marine Resources to quantify changes in the size at maturity of female lobsters over time along the coast of Maine. Finally, Jesica will discuss how warming in the region may be driving these changes and how the results of this work can be incorporated into the stock assessment and future management decisions.

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