NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center has provided funding to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to enable lobster and crab biological and fishery data gathering to support stock assessments.
The funding will support the work of the Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet, organised by the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation (CFRF). Established in 2013, the fleet has collected biological data from nearly 160,000 American lobsters and about 90,000 Jonah crabs from the Gulf of Maine and south to the Mid-Atlantic. Sensors on their gear record bottom-water temperatures.
Anna Mercer, Science Center cooperative research branch chief, said: “The project exemplifies the value of working with fishermen to address science needs and has tangible impacts on the stock assessments and management of these valuable species.”
The project integrates biological and environmental data collection into standard fishing vessel operations. It is advancing working partnerships between scientists, managers, and members of the lobster and Jonah crab industry. In recent years, changing environmental conditions have affected both species. Once more of a bycatch in the lobster fishery, Jonah crab also now supports a developing fishery that can help supplement lobster catches.
Upcoming work will involve more than 20 fishing vessels sampling lobster, Jonah crab, and bottom-water temperature. Samples will be obtained from data-poor regions in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, and Southern New England. Tablets pre-programmed with custom applications will be used to record and relay biological and bottom-water temperature data to a central database at CFRF.
Resulting data will be shared with participating fishermen, stock assessment scientists, fishery managers, and regional ocean modellers. It will inform stock assessments and management plans for the American lobster and Jonah crab fisheries.