The Use of Juvenile Collectors to Estimate Lobster Abundance
Currently, there are no accurate methods, other than scuba surveys, for determining the abundance of lobsters on the ocean floor. Our previous studies have demonstrated that: 1) lobster traps are very inefficient, 2) there is a poor relationship between lobster density and catch in either traditional or ventless traps, 3) most lobsters on the bottom fall in a size class that is not effectively sampled using traditional or ventless traps and 4) most traps saturate in less than 24 hours.
Based on these findings, we have developed a new juvenile collector that very effectively samples the same size classes of lobsters that are most commonly found during scuba surveys. If we can demonstrate that these collectors are as accurate as scuba surveys and sample the same portion of the lobster population, then we can move forward with development of a lobster monitoring program based on these collectors.
Our most immediate goal is to determine if this collector provides an accurate measurement of lobster abundance. We will accomplish this goal by fishing this trap in a 100-square-meter mesocosm where we can carefully control the density of lobsters. After fishing the trap over a range of densities, we will plot catch vs. density to determine if the correlation is strong enough to warrant additional studies. If the study goes as expected, our results will help us compete successfully for external funds to support the next phase in the project.