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Environment and Outdoors

2018 Baby Lobster Survey Finds Declines In Parts Of Gulf Of Maine

There were more signs last year that the future of the lobster fishery lies off Canada. It's based on the latest findings about declining populations of baby lobsters in the Gulf of Maine. University of Maine Research Professor Rick Wahle says the implications of the 2018 survey for the future of Maine lobstering aren't entirely clear.

"We need to be sure we're interpreting the settlement index correctly," he says, "and have a clear of understanding of how these changes in the thermal structure in the Gulf of Maine and the overall ecosystem affect their distribution and abundance."

The baby lobster surveys are conducted in September and October, after lobster larvae have "settled" onto the sea floor.

Wahle says after female lobsters' eggs are released, they hatch into plankton-like larvae "carried by currents downstream. They advance through three larval stages in the plankton, then metamorphose to a final stage, called the post-larvae. That, post-larvae, is the transitional stage between the water column and the sea bed."

Divers survey areas of the sea bed to measure the baby lobster populations. Wahle says 2018's data continues to show increases in baby lobsters off Atlantic Canada, but declines in the shallow parts of the western Gulf of Maine.  

Wahle says while it's not completely clear what this will mean for Maine lobstermen in future years, he notes that landings appear to have hit a peak in recent years.