DMR awards grants to support lobster research

AUGUSTA — The Department of Marine Resources recently awarded six grants for research programs that will contribute to improved understanding of lobster habitat, stock assessment, monitoring, impacts of management actions on the fishery and how those can be integrated in a way that informs future management.

The department made the awards, totaling $340,000, from the Lobster Research, Education, and Development (RED) Fund. The RED Fund receives money from the sale of lobster license plates and is administered by DMR.

The department issued a request for proposals that sought research initiatives taking a collaborative approach toward improved science for the lobster fishery.

Research project leaders will meet quarterly in facilitated sessions to share updates on their research and to discuss how the different projects might be coordinated. They will include those funded through the department’s grant proposal process as well as other stakeholders from academic, management and industry groups who will advise and provide input into ongoing research.

“Maine’s lobster industry is our most valuable and is a critical piece of the economy of nearly every community along the coast,” DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said in a statement announcing the grants. “We know that change is happening in the Gulf of Maine and we want to be positioned with improved science to adapt to those changes.”

Of the six awards, five were for proposals submitted by University of Maine researchers, including three by UMaine Marine Science Professor Yong Chen.

Professor Chen has been awarded $75,000 over two years to develop scientific models that will project climate-driven changes in lobster distribution and habitat, and improve the ability of regulators to assess and manage lobster.

Chen received an additional $40,000 to evaluate the ability of current DMR monitoring programs, including its ventless trap survey and the settlement survey, to capture distribution shifts of lobster in the Gulf of Maine over time.

Chen also received an award of $75,000 to use computer simulations to evaluate and quantify the impacts of conservation measures used in the management of Maine lobster such as size limits and v-notching. This study also will include an analysis of how changing ocean temperatures affect the effectiveness of these conservation measures.

UMaine Marine Science Professor Robert Steneck received $10,000 to evaluate the relationship between lobster populations and habitat along the Maine coast by assessing lobster larvae settlement, kelp forests and the near shore density of legal size and sublegal size lobsters.

UMaine Professor Richard Wahle was given an award of $40,000 to evaluate the relationship between lobster larvae and zooplankton over time throughout the Gulf of Maine.

Kathy Mills, research scientist, and Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute received an award of $80,000 to develop a suite of indicators that show how lobster habitat and the Gulf of Maine ecosystem are changing spatially and over time, and to evaluate how those indicators may affect lobster populations.

Nick Record, senior research scientist with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Jeff Runge, UMaine professor of oceanography and a research scientist with GMRI, Eric Annis, a biology professor with Hood College and Damian Brady, UMaine assistant research science professor, will each receive $5,000 to contribute additional expertise and data from their own research on a range of related issues.

“Each of these projects represents a significant contribution to the body of science that will inform the assessment and management of Maine’s most valuable fishery,” said Carl Wilson, director of the DMR’s Science Bureau.

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