July 5, 2006
In the world of the lobster fishery, less may indeed be more. A new study may give hope to lobstermen struggling with declining lobster stocks, suggesting new ways that might improve the sustainability of the New England lobster fishery and reduce the risk of entangling whales and other marine life in lobster trap gear.
Research Specialist Hauke Kite-Powell of the Marine Policy Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and former lobsterman Dick Allen of Rhode Island used computer models to look at the various biological and economic factors affecting the lobster fishery.
Their study questioned “the wisdom of spending money to catch lobsters and then throwing them back.” They found that by relaxing the minimum legal size requirement, but reducing the number of traps lobstermen could set, it would improve the sustainability of the lobster fishery, increase lobstermen’s incomes and the economic benefits to the regional economy from the lobster fishery, and reduce the risk of entangling whales and other marine life in lobster trap ropes.
“What we tried to do was determine the Holy Grail of fisheries management,” Kite-Powell said. Allen and Kite-Powell focused their study on one lobster management area, from Nantucket, Mass., to Block Island, R.I. “We recognize that the model “is not the real world,” Kite-Powell said.
The study was funded by a $40,000 grant from The Island Foundation of Marion, Mass.