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Lobsters and Sustainability in Maine

September 17, 2018

Nicha and I spent Labor Day weekend touring the Revolutionary War trail and visiting parts of Maine. We joined a lobster boat educational tour called Lucky Catch Tours, out of Portland. It was a small group on a lobster boat, going out to pick up 8 lobster pots. The two guides from Lucky Catch were really knowledgeable taught us quite a bit on how the lobster industry in Maine has been able to provide a long-term solution to managing the demand for lobsters while keeping the lobster population stable.

The lobster pots are designed to only hold lobsters that are within the legal slot limit, measured by a metal caliper from the eye to the back of the main shell. Lobsters that are too large are set free to mate and produce more lobsters, while the smaller lobsters are allowed to grow bigger. Female lobsters that are carrying eggs are “notched,” thereby identifying them as breeder females so they will never be harvested if caught by other lobster boats. It’s a very simple yet effective program. Unfortunately, Maine is the only state with this type of harvesting program, according to Lucky Catch.  And with the warming up of the Maine waters, the population may not be a stable in the coming years according to a recent article.

Even with these challenges, the Maine lobster program is a great example of balancing the demands of humans with the limited supply of a particular resource. What’s great about this program is that the lobster fisherman are part of the overall solution, working closely with environmental scientists on a data driven analysis of their fisheries and a proper way to manage it. It turns out Maine has long been a model of environmental conservation, dating back to programs started in 1879.

The Maine lobster conservation program is a great example of balancing people, profit, and planet.  It’s a challenge, but it can be done. It has to be constantly managed using data and sound, holistic decisions that require multiple parties to come to a solution that benefits all. JOOB’s goals are similar as we launch into our business - find a balance among interdependent objectives. Well done Maine - we know the battle for sustaining lobsters certainly isn’t over, but the path forward is in good hands.

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