URI teams with fishermen to protect and study lobsters
KINGSTON, R.I. -- December 8, 2000 -- University of Rhode Island researchers
are teaming with members of the Rhode Island Lobstermen's Association to
conduct scientific studies on lobsters in an effort to better understand
lobster biology and ensure that harvest levels are sustainable.
According to URI researcher Kathleen Castro, three separate collaborative
studies are under way to assess the growth rates, egg production, movement
and survival of lobsters in Narragansett Bay and offshore.
Funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the first study
aims to learn more about the biological characteristics of the state's lobster
population. Fifteen lobstermen are voluntarily capturing, tagging and releasing
thousands of lobsters in the Bay and Rhode Island Sound. When those lobsters
are later recaptured by any of the state's commercial lobstermen, they will
turn a wide variety of data over to Castro. In return, the lobstermen will
receive information back from Castro about that lobster.
In cooperation with NMFS and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental
Management, a similar effort has been proceeding to study lobsters that
were released during the summer of 2000 as a result of the North Cape oil
spill. More than 300,000 female lobsters were released in Rhode Island
waters last summer to make up for those killed by the 1996 oil spill.
"Each of the released lobsters has a V-notch in their tail to identify
them as part of the North Cape program," explained Castro. "The
lobstermen are tagging them so when they are recaptured we can better understand
how much they move around and to assess their survival rates and egg production."
The third study is an evaluation of the impact of shell disease on Rhode
Island lobsters. By studying caged lobsters in upper Narragansett Bay and
offshore, the project will determine what happens to lobsters with diseased
shells. "Do they die? Do they survive? Do they get rid of it when
they molt their shell? If so, does it come back and how quickly?"
Castro said cooperative efforts between fishermen, researchers and regulators
are uncommon, particularly when the only incentive is better information
for managing lobster stocks. She said that Rhode Island is very progressive
in its management of the state's lobster population, and that is due in
large part to the efforts of the fishermen themselves.
"Fishermen who are involved in the research and management of the
resource make informed decisions. They are willing to make the right choices
to ensure the sustainability of the fishery."
For Information: Kathleen Castro 874-5063, Todd McLeish