P.O. Box 235, Friendship, ME 04547 (207) 832-8224 www.lobsters.org

Spring 2004

Dear Volunteers and Friends of The Lobster Conservancy,

The Lobster Conservancy's mission is to sustain a thriving lobster fishery through science and community. This newsletter keeps our friends and volunteer research team informed of our activities. Here's what we've been up to over the past few months.

News from the Board of Directors

Dr. Adria Elskus has landed a job with the United States Geological Survey stationed at the University of Maine campus in Orono. She'll be the new Research Fishery Biologist/Toxicologist for the Eastern region starting in mid-July. Fellow Board member, Dr. Kari Lavalli, who has recently been teaching at the University of Southwest Texas, will be moving back East having accepted a job at Boston University starting in the fall. We look forward to having both board members and colleagues back in this neck of the woods.

We are pleased to announce that three new foundations have begun supporting TLC's programs this year: the Fund for the Environment of the Boston Foundation, Massachusetts Environmental Trust, and the Paul Newman Foundation.

Multitudes of Thanks

Thank you to all of our friends and members who volunteered to man our booth at the Maine Fishermen's Forum including George and Barbara Hampson, Stacy Welner, Richard Nelson, Michael Dunn, Michele Walsh, Martha MacIlvaine, and Glenn and Cheryl McFadden. We are grateful to all of you for spending the time helping to educate others about our programs and mission. Also a big thank you to those of you who visited the booth. The forum is always a wonderful time to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Also, please join us in congratulating Kristen York of Harpswell, this year's winner of our annual Fishermen's Forum T-shirt drawing.

Martha MacIlvaine was one of several volunteers who helped represent TLC at the Maine Fishermen's Forum (Photo by Chris Cash)

Thanks also to Jennie and Mark Bichrest owners and operators of Purse Line Bait, winning bidders of TLC's donation to the Fishermen's Forum Scholarship Fund. The donation, since gifted to Richard and Mary Rideout, entitles the couple to a full course lobster dinner cooked and served by Senior Scientist Diane Cowan on Friendship Long Island followed by a sunset cruise in Friendship Harbor.

Since most of you received several bulletins about the flight of Hercules, the huge lobster that students in Washington state shipped back to Maine, we thought it would be nice to follow up and give you an idea about his size.

Hercules was massive compared with a 1 1/4 pound lobster (Photo by Sara Ellis)

Hercules was a big boy! He weighed 15 pounds and measured 485mm in total length, with a carapace length of 220mm and a crusher width of 155mm! For some perspective on these measurements, 485mm equals 19 1/2 inches, whereas the average total length of a 1 1/4 pound lobster is only around 255mm, i.e., 10 inches.

Special thanks to Mrs. Withrow's class at Stevens Middle School in Port Angeles, Washington who noticed Hercules and sent him home with help from Alberston's Market and Federal Express. We look forward to staying in touch with Mrs. Withrow's stellar and motivated students, who have now undertaken the groundwork to try to change Washington State law regarding the importation of oversized Maine lobster.

Research News

The Lobster Conservancy has two main research programs: the Juvenile Lobster Monitoring Project and the Lobster Sonar Tracking Project. The purpose of the JLMP is to measure the health and productivity of lobster nursery habitats over space and time. We do this by measuring the abundance and distribution of juvenile lobsters and by using mark/recapture techniques to investigate growth rates and survival. Currently, 5 TLC staff and more than 90 citizen volunteers monitor 28 sites along the coastlines of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The purpose of the Lobster Sonar Tracking Project is to map spawning areas and migrations of adult lobsters. To date, more than 65 lobster fishermen have participated in the Lobster Sonar Tracking Project.

Juvenile Lobster Project

Long-term monitoring

Diane Cowan is currently in her 12th year of censusing and tagging juvenile lobsters at Lowell 's Cove on Orr's Island in Harpswell, ME. Andrew Mountcastle, with help from Chris Cash, has recently taken over sampling and tagging at our Friendship Long Island site, which has been monitored since 1999. Juvenile lobsters were found at the Lowell 's Cove site throughout the winter months and sporadically at Friendship Long Island during the winter. Our Allen Island site has been sampled since 1998, with Linda Archambault tagging lobsters there since August 2002. This was the first winter that the Allen Island site was sampled every month. No lobsters were found at the site from January through April. In May, lobster densities increased at all three of these intertidal sites.

Linda continued to lead a team of SCUBA divers including Jim Bolen, Steve Karpiak, Andrew Mountcastle, and Sara Ellis to measure lobster densities monthly at three adjacent subtidal sites. This is part of a three year project supported by UpEast Foundation, to make year-round comparisons of lobsters' use of the two habitats.

Thank you to Jim and Debbie Baker for transportation to Allen Island and for their generous hospitality when the trip required overnight stays. The Allen Island site has a new volunteer data recorder, Arilda Densch. Arilda lives in South Berwick, ME and operates her own Architectural Drafting business. She has been a TLC supporter for many years.

Volunteer-based Juvenile Lobster Monitoring Program

We are now in our 9th year of volunteer-based sampling in the Juvenile Lobster Monitoring Program. Season Kick-Off meetings were held in April in Friendship, Maine and Rye, NH. Thank you to the Hahn Community Center and the Seacoast Science Center for providing space for these events. The newly renovated Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Park in Rye, NH is worth a visit for anyone in the area. At the meetings we discussed the results of the 2003 sampling season, reviewed changes in procedures for this year, presented information on lobster shell disease, and had a chance to catch up with new volunteers and old friends. We had very great attendance this year, with more than 60% of our volunteers joining us for one of the meetings. Thanks for your strong support!

This year, more than 90 volunteers are monitoring juvenile lobsters at 25 sites, from to Great Wass Island, in Downeast Maine, to our two newest and southernmost sites in Scituate and Green Harbor Massachusetts. Welcome aboard to new volunteers Lin Alley, Kit and Leigh Sherrill, Jocelyn Hubbell, Annie Brett, Bob Mills, Tom Bender, Daniel Doolittle, Arilda Densch, Kirsten af Klinteberg, Denise Fiore, Kimberly Howland, Beth Conlin, John Carver, John Barrett, and Rick and Robin Barrow. Teams began sampling in April during the spring low tides and will continue their monthly surveys through November. In April and May, Jane Roundy and Sara Ellis trained new volunteers in Scituate, Green Harbor, Potts Point, Gun Point, Pratt Island, Goose Rocks, and Kettle Cove. We still have a busy training schedule for new volunteers in June and July, then hope to be able to schedule follow-up site visits during the remainder of the year.

Most of the teams that sampled in the cool April temperatures did not find any lobsters. The exceptions were Gerry Island with 7 lobsters ranging from 9 to 41mm CL, Goose Rocks Beach with 4 lobsters, Potts Pt with 4 lobsters (7.5 to 30mm CL), Kettle Cove with 3 lobsters (8 to 12mm CL), and Cundys Harbor with 1 that was 12 mm in carapace length. The teams in Massachusetts and New Hampshire found Asian Shore crabs to be very plentiful, with Gerry Island reporting a record 112 Asian Shore crabs in April ( i.e., an average density of 6 crabs per square meter). It remains to be seen what impact this new invasive species will have on the juvenile lobster population.

The water temperature began to rise in May, and more teams found lobsters. Gerry Island surpassed all other teams, finding 35 lobsters ranging in size from 8 to 61mm CL, followed closely by Fort Stark with 27 lobsters (10 to 74mm CL). Volunteers at Pratt Island found 11 lobsters (10 to 39mm CL), while those at Plum Cove found 7 (11 to 54 mm CL). Volunteers at Little Harbor, Potts Pt and Gun Point each found 5 lobsters, and at Bennett Cove and Goose Rocks they found 4 of the little critters. Folks at Cundy's Harbor found 2 lobsters, while in Winter Harbor only 1 lobster made its presence known. 

Lobsterman Rick Barrow measures a juvenile lobster at a new monitoring site in Scituate Massachusetts (photo by Sara Ellis).

Volunteers have entered their April and May data into the online database. The water temperature continues to rise slowly, and the 2004 sampling season is off and running. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers.

Lobster Life Studies Center

Sonar Tracking Project

The purpose of the Lobster Sonar Tracking Project is to map the distribution of lobster spawning and hatching grounds, and test hypotheses related to where and at what temperature females spawn, brood, and hatch the eggs that have sustained the Gulf of Maine 's record lobster harvests. To follow the migratory movements of reproductively active female lobsters, we attach a transmitter to the back of the lobster using superglue and duct tape. Lobstermen then track the lobsters using hydrophones and receivers to “listen” and decipher the series of pulses emitted by each transmitter's unique code. A temperature recorder is attached to the “knuckle” of the claw with a cable tie. With the help of more than 65 lobstermen, we have managed to follow the migratory movements and record temperature profiles of hundreds of female lobsters equipped with acoustic transmitters and temperature recorders.

The lobster sonar tracking team has become extremely skilled at locating the beeping lobsters.

We have managed to relocate 98% of the lobsters tagged in 2003 at least once. This compares with 78% of those tagged in 2002.  For more information on the results of this research visit the Northeast Consortium website and the Marine Census of the Gulf of Maine website.

Feel free to request a copy of our Sonar Tracking Project flyer to post at a convenient lobster wharf near you.

On a different topic, we'd like to alert you to a recently published report by Joseph Kunkle, Ph.D. of University of Massachusetts Amherst about a collaborative pilot project conducted at the Lobster Life Studies Center. Preliminary results suggest that the color of lobster haemolymph (blood) can be used to predict the reproductive stage or molt stage of a lobster. The development of a simple inexpensive technique to make such predictions at sea could potentially be useful to commercial lobstermen.

Outreach and Education

Lobster Larvae in the Classroom

The Lobster Larvae in the Classroom project is an elementary school-based hands-on learning experience in which students raise larval lobsters from the time they hatch until they metamorphose into tiny juvenile lobsters. This project educates students about lobster biology and marine science and helps establish a relationship between TLC and the teachers and students in local communities. The Lobster Larvae in the Classroom project is an excellent tool for teaching scientific concepts in coastal towns where the students' familiarity with lobster lends a comfortable atmosphere for learning.

This spring, students at Isles au Haut, Islesford, and Friendship participated in the Lobster Larvae in the Classroom project. TLC Education Coordinator Linda Archambault collaborated with teachers Kathie Fiveash, Jennie Johnson, and Carla Eutsler in presenting the project. Several of the new lessons developed at last year's Lobster Literacy Retreat were used successfully in conjunction with this year's projects. One wonderful addition to the lobster project this year is Finding Friendship, an Oral History Project by students in Gigi Hynd's class. The end product will be a series of student-conducted interviews with local lobstermen, which will be available for viewing on the web. Check TLC's web site for a link next month. Project costs have been met through grants from MBNA, the Emery Grant of the Maine Community Foundation, and REAP. Thanks also to Brian Tarbox of Southern Maine Community College for providing lobster larvae.

Lobster Literacy List Serve

The Lobster Literacy list serve is up and active with many thanks to SAD 40 technology specialist Matthew Kopishke. We hope the list serve is a useful platform for those of you participating in the Muscongus Among Us series, Lobster Larvae in the Classroom projects, and anyone interested in science education opportunities around the state and beyond. We want to hear your ideas!

Learning focus: Muscongus Bay

The lobster dissection workshop led by Linda Archambault at the Cooperative Extension in Waldoboro as part of the Muscongus Among Us teacher's workshop series was well attended and received rave reviews from educators in attendance.

Linda Archambault will be participating in two afternoon sessions at the Girls Science Camp at Kieve in Nobleboro, Maine this summer. These sessions give campers a chance to meet and chat with female scientists about their careers and how they came to choose them.

On April 9 Linda and Andrew traveled to Fairview School in Auburn to give lobster presentations to two classes of 6 th graders. Linda taught the kids about the lobster life cycle and fisheries issues and Andrew filled them in on TLC's current research projects. This is the second year TLC scientists have been to Fairview School. Their presentation was part of teacher Jacquie Lunt's unit on Oceans and Conservation.

Island Institute Fellow Andrew Mountcastle wrote a successful grant application to the MBNA Foundation to continue renovations to our Lobster Learning Center on Little Morse Island this summer. This work will follow on improvements to the facility led by former Island Fellow Dan O'Grady and supported initially by the MBNA Foundation. Our goal is to develop the facility into a Lobster Learning Center – a world-class lobster education and research center offering indoor and outdoor classrooms, and a wet lab. The main thrust this year is to reshingle a damaged roof and install solar power to provide non-polluting, renewable energy. Additional needs include a satellite Internet connection for communications, and a basic plumbing system to accommodate small groups of visitors. MBNA has awarded TLC a 50/50 Challenge Grant of $15,000, which means we must raise an additional $15,000 in financial support or in-kind services. If you are interested in contributing to this project to help us meet our match requirements, please contact us for more information.

Fishermen and Scientists Present

Friendship fisherman Tim Thompson gave a presentation to the Over 50 Club about his involvement with TLC's Sonar Tracking Project, listening for and tracking tagged lobsters in Muscongous Bay.

On April 23 rd Drs. Cowan and Ellis attended the Lobster Institute's Lobstermen's Town Meeting in Portland, Maine. The event was sponsored by Darden Restaurants Foundation, which is also a major sponsor of TLC. It was a great experience for all and proved to be a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues in the fishing and scientific community from Canada and the United States. Kudos to the Lobster Institute for a well organized event.

In April, Sara Ellis, gave a presentation to the Southshore Lobstermen's Association in Scituate Massachusetts on the Juvenile Lobster Monitoring Program. Sara was there also to scout for lobster nurseries and train lobstermen and their families interested in becoming volunteers. This trip, and a follow-up visits resulted in the addition of two new lobster monitoring sites and four new volunteers at Scituate and Green Harbor.

On May 10th Diane Cowan talked about Lobster Literacy to the Mid Coast Stewards at the Damariscotta River Association and Linda Archambault similarly presented to Pen Bay Stewards on May 27th at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport.

If you're in Maine this summer, don't miss Lobstah! From Bait to Plate, this year's fun and educational exhibit at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, designed by curator Benjamin Fuller. The exhibit runs from May 29th through October 17th. The grand opening on June 12th features The Art of Lobstering, which includes works by local artists including Friendship Long Island's Barbara Beebe. Call the museum at 207 548-0334 for more details.

Press Coverage

TLC's research is featured in two new books that will bring the Maine Coast to readers all over the world. Trevor Corson's The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean and Colin Woodard's The Lobster Coast can both be purchased in books stores and on line. Or purchase Corson's The Secret Life of Lobsters when you come to a book signing hosted by TLC (see below). You can read Philip Conkling 's review of both books in April's issue of The Working Waterfront.

Maine Things Considered 's Keith McKean interviewed TLC Executive Director, Sara Ellis while she was training a group of students from Waynflete Academy to sample juvenile lobsters in Cape Elizabeth. You can still listen to the interview online at Maine Public Radio's website.

May's Lobster Doc column wrapped up a four part series on Lobster Size and Mating. If you want to read this article, or look at back issues of Diane Cowan's Lobster Doc articles in Commercial Fisheries News, you can read them online.

Upcoming Events

We are excited to announce Trevor Corson's upcoming book signing to take place at 6:00 pm, Wednesday July 7th at the Hahn Community Center in Friendship. Trevor's book, The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean features a variety of Maine fishermen and scientists including our very own Diane Cowan. Trevor will entertain us with his knowledge, fascinating stories and wit! This will be an excellent opportunity to meet Trevor and have him sign your book (books will be available for sale on site).

Save the Date! On September 18th TLC will host our annual Volunteer Appreciation Day on Friendship Long Island. As usual we will show our gratitude by serving a lobster feast and hope to offer some additional treats to this year's event! If you are interested save the date now and join us in the fall.

TLC's Wish List

If you can spare any of the following items, we would be happy to give them a new home, providing they are in good working order. The value of your donation would, of course, be tax deductible. Please call us at 207-832-8224 about a potential donation.

Thank you to Mac Passano and Nancy Nelson for donating books to TLC's small, but growing, marine science library.

We are interested in training one or two volunteers to hold the fort at the Lobster House in Friendship while we are out in the field for monthly tides. Duties would include answering the phone, updating membership lists and greeting fishermen and other guests as they stop by. If you are interested please contact Chris or Sara at 207-832-8224 or by email at info@lobsters.org

As always, your support will be most appreciated!


Yours in TLC and Friendship,

Sara Ellis, Executive Director and Diane Cowan, Senior Scientist

TLC News