BAR HARBOR — Councils for the seven state lobster zones will meet in person over the next weeks after a lengthy period of remote meetings initiated under pandemic guidelines.
The primary goal of the meetings it to discuss an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) draft addendum to its lobster management plan on stock resiliency in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Also on the agenda is a public meeting policy that could allow remote participation at future council meetings.
ASMFC’s American Lobster Plan Development Team recommends proactive measures “given recent declines in young-of-year indicators, despite the stock not experiencing overfishing and abundance being near-time highs,” according to a Sept. 10, 2021, memorandum to the ASMFC’s American Lobster Management Board.
The recommendations include an annual trigger index to establish whether “relative abundance has reached a specific trigger level.” If a trigger level is met, then the ASMFC would impose new management measures to maintain the resiliency of the lobster stock.
The annual trigger mechanism would be based on the average of the combined spring trawl surveys of average lobster recruit indices in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the combined fall surveys from the same areas and the combined Gulf of Maine Ventless Trap Survey. The recommendation is that the three-year running average of the trigger index “would trigger management action when it falls below the selected trigger level(s),” according to the memorandum.
The specific trigger level is yet to be determined, but the memorandum outlines three options based on declines from the established reference point determined by the surveys: a 17 percent, 32 percent or 45 percent level of recruit decline. Recruits are defined as having a carapace (shell) length of 71-80 millimeters. The three-year average used includes the current year and the two preceding years.
The development team also recommends adding an option to the addendum “for immediate action to increase minimum legal size while the stock conditions are favorable,” to address growth overfishing and increase the proportion of female lobsters that reach maturity.
The councils also will hear updates from the 2021 lobster monitoring surveys as part of the discussion on the scientific justification for the recommendations in Draft Addendum XXVII.
The Zone C Council meets March 31 at the Island Community Center in Stonington at 5 p.m. The Zone B Council will meet April 11 in Bar Harbor at the MDI High School Library at a time not yet announced.