Sea Grant announces funding opportunity for American Lobster Research Program

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Friday, February 1, 2019 - 1:00pm

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photo of lobster on a fishing vessel

The National Sea Grant American Lobster Research Program will support research to address critical gaps in knowledge about how the American lobster (Homarus americanus) and its fishery are being impacted by environmental change. It is informed by listening sessions with regional fishing industry stakeholders, state and federal fisheries managers, and university, state and federal fisheries researchers. 

Research topics suitable for study on American lobster under this Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) should have a geographic focus of the Gulf of Maine and/or Georges Bank and address one or more of the following:

  1. Increased understanding of life history parameters, including but not limited to, migration, growth, and maturity;
  2. Larval studies and early biology;
  3. Spatial distribution; and
  4. Socio-economic lessons learned from Southern New England as they pertain to Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine. 

For each research topic above, special emphasis may be placed on the impact of warming temperatures.

Pending appropriation of funds, Sea Grant anticipates awarding between 5-10 research projects totaling between $1 million and $2 million in FY2019. Projects must have a maximum duration of two years.

Proposals are due in grants.gov on April 11, 2019. 

Complete information can be found on grants.gov: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=312478

Federal Funding Opportunity Number: NOAA-OAR-SG-2019-2005917

Direct questions to oar.hq.sg.competitions@noaa.gov.

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Webinar:

The National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) will host a webinar providing an overview of this funding opportunity and its application process on February 14, 2019 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. The webinar will include a presentation and provide an opportunity to ask questions that you may have about applying to the announcement. Please register and/or join by following this link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6161045633189367043

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Alison Krepp (alison.krepp@noaa.gov).

Webinar accessibility: If you would like a plain text version of the presentation sent to you ahead of time, or would like the NSGO to provide live captioning of this event or require any other special assistance to participate in this webinar, please email Brooke Carney (brooke.carney@noaa.gov) at least 24 hours ahead of the scheduled start time of the webinar. For more information on Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, please visit www.ada.gov.

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BACKGROUND:

The American lobster (Homarus americanus) is one of the most iconic modern American fisheries and total U.S. landings of lobster have steadily increased over the past 35 years. Today, the ex-vessel value of the American lobster fishery is estimated at roughly $666.7 million and represents one of the largest and most valuable fisheries along the Atlantic coast. In 2015, the American lobster fishery represented the highest landed value in the nation. 

Rising ocean temperatures have caused global fish population distribution shifts, and studies suggest warming temperatures may also directly impact the migration, growth, maturity, and natural mortality of American lobster. Of equal concern are potential impacts to lobster larval mortality due to ecosystem and food web changes. Lobster habitat is also changing, although the degree to which is unknown. 

These changes present threats to the American lobster fishery in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, where the majority of American Lobster is harvested.  Although lobster populations and landings in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank have been increasing since the late 1990s, young-of-year surveys began showing declines in 2012. The state of Maine, where more than eighty percent of lobsters harvested in the US were landed in 2016, reported an eighteen percent drop in catch volume in 2017. The recruitment failure experienced in southern New England and its subsequent impacts on the lobster fishery have raised concerns that a similar failure could occur in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Banks after years of record harvests. Understanding the factors leading to recruitment failures and the socioeconomic implications are critical to preserving the American lobster fishery.

Both researchers and industry are already observing changes in maturation and growth in the Gulf of Maine lobster population. The 2015 stock assessment found that while the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank stock was at record high abundance, there has been a decline in settlement in recent years - a potential sign of poor future recruitment. Changes in the spatial distribution of the stock such as increased migration between inshore and offshore habitat are also not well-understood. While traditionally much of the lobster fishery has been located in nearshore areas, there is also a need to better understand the growing offshore fishery. As the fishery adapts to the effects of environmental change, there are clear socioeconomic impacts to the communities involved. Critical research is needed now to answer some of the most important questions regarding the lobster stock and its fishery.

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