A comparison of two fishery-independent survey programs used to define the population structure of American lobster (Homarus americanus) in the Gulf of Maine


Chen, Yong, Sally Sherman, Carl Wilson, John Sowles, and Minoru Kanaiwa
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The population structure and abundance of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) stock in the Gulf of Maine are defined by data derived from a fishery-independent trawl survey program conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Few sampling stations in the survey area are located inshore, in particular along coastal Maine. According to statistics, however, more than two thirds of the lobster landings come from inshore waters within three miles off the coast of Maine. In order to include an inshore survey program, complementary to the NMFS survey, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) initialized an inshore survey program in 2000. The survey was modeled on the NMFS survey program, making these two survey programs comparable. Using data from both survey programs, we evaluated the population structure of the American lobster in the Gulf of Maine. Our findings indicate that lobsters in the Gulf of Maine tend to have a size-dependent inshore-offshore distribution; smaller lobsters are more likely to stay inshore and larger lobsters are more likely to stay offshore. The DMR inshore and NMFS survey programs focused on different areas in the Gulf of Maine and likely targeted different segments of the stock. We suggest that data from both survey programs be used to assess the lobster stock and to describe the dynamics of the stock in the Gulf of Maine.