Movement of American lobster (Homarus americanus) in the southwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence


Comeau, Michel, and Fernand Savoie
Cover date: 

A total of 42,445 American lobsters (Homarus americanus) were tagged in thirty-one sites throughout the southwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence between 1980 and 1997. Results from the recapture of 8503 tagged lobsters showed small distances traveled be - tween the release and the recapture position for animals ranging in size from 51 to 152 mm carapace length. The average distance traveled ranged from 2 km in parts of Baie des Chaleurs and western Cape Breton to 19 km in central Northumberland Strait. Lobsters moved generally along the shore (93% of the dispersion was in areas between the shore and the 20-m bathymetric contour). As a result, lobsters traveled longer distances in sites characterized by a gradually sloping bottom where the distance between the shore and the 20-m contour line was extensive in contrast to areas characterized by rapidly changing depths and by a relatively small amount of habitat shallower than 20 m. In the majority of sites (14 of 19) there was no significant difference between males and females in the average distance they traveled. In four of the five sites females moved farther than males. In general, the average distance traveled by berried females was shorter than that traveled by males or nonberried females. No relationship was observed between the distance traveled and the size of the animal. There was no strong evidence of a relationship between the average distance traveled and the number of days at liberty. In general, lobsters in the southwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence traveled short distances and dispersion was restricted to the nearshore habitat. Further, the distance traveled was not correlated to size, sex, or years at large. These findings show that there is little interaction between American lobsters from different fishing areas at the benthic level and that American lobster movements should have minimal consequences for management of the species in the southwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence.