Summary

IDENTIFICATION

Last updated on 5 July 2017

SCIENTIFIC NAME

Homarus americanus

SPECIES NAME(S)

American lobster

COMMON NAMES

Atlantic Lobster Maine Lobster, Maine Lobster

Stock structure for American Lobster in the NW Atlantic is uncertain, particularly near the southern part of their range in the Georges Bank (GB), Gulf of Maine (GoM) and Southern New England (SNE) Area.

A recent benchmark assessment grouped what was a Gulf of Maine stock and a Georges Bank stock into one unit for assessment purposes (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2015). This unit excludes any Canadian managed stock in Lobster Fishing Area 41, The Bay of Fundy, and South West Nova Scotia. This profile covers the GoM-GB stock. It should be noted that the inshore portion of this stock contains an Marine Stewardship Council certified stock in Lobster Conservation Management Area (LCMA) 1. See (ASMFC 2016) Figure 1 for a map of the LCMAs.


ANALYSIS

Strengths
  • Stocks is in good shape, with good recruitment and high landings. Mortality rate at acceptable levels. Abundance is high
  • Management measures in place to restrict effort and catch including min and max sizes.
  • Egg-bearing females are released
  • Fishery generally has low bycatch compared with other gear types. Survival of bycatch species is generally good if released.
  • Harvester compliance is generally good
Weaknesses
  • Management plan and control rules may not be precautionary enough should the stock fall below abundance limits
  • Rebuilding plans are not set in the management plan. Recent developments in SNE suggest the plan maybe too flexible to allow for meaningful management action in the face of declining stock size.
  • Stock has an impact on deep-sea and other corals, but has been exempted from action by the management bodies
  • Fishery gear used has a demonstrated impact on critically endangered Right whales. Effect of mitigation measures not known.
  • Right whale rebuilding has stalled.
  • Reference points are based on historical performance rather than stock productivity.
     

SCORES

Management Quality:

Management Strategy:

≥ 6

Managers Compliance:

≥ 8

Fishers Compliance:

≥ 8

Stock Health:

Current
Health:

10

Future Health:

8.1


RECOMMENDATIONS

CATCHERS & REGULATORS

1. Work actively to address and close out conditions placed upon the certification of the US and Canadian fisheries in the agreed timeframe.
2. Report achievements publicly to share progress with buyers.

RETAILERS & SUPPLY CHAIN

1. Contact the MSC client fishery (details are available on the MSC website) and request timely implementation of improvement action to address conditions.
2. Express your support to help meet conditions that may be at a government/regulatory level (where applicable).


FIPS

No related FIPs

CERTIFICATIONS

  • Gulf of Maine lobster fishery:

    MSC Certified

  • Maine Lobster trap fishery:

    MSC Certified

Fisheries

Within FishSource, the term "fishery" is used to indicate each unique combination of a flag country with a fishing gear, operating within a particular management unit, upon a resource. That resource may have a known biological stock structure and/or may be assessed at another level for practical or jurisdictional reasons. A fishery is the finest scale of resolution captured in FishSource profiles, as it is generally the scale at which sustainability can most fairly and practically be evaluated.

ASSESSMENT UNIT MANAGEMENT UNIT FLAG COUNTRY FISHING GEAR
Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank US Georges Bank United States Pots
Traps
US Gulf of Maine United States Pots
Traps

Analysis

OVERVIEW

Last updated on 11 July 2017

Strengths
  • Stocks is in good shape, with good recruitment and high landings. Mortality rate at acceptable levels. Abundance is high
  • Management measures in place to restrict effort and catch including min and max sizes.
  • Egg-bearing females are released
  • Fishery generally has low bycatch compared with other gear types. Survival of bycatch species is generally good if released.
  • Harvester compliance is generally good
Weaknesses
  • Management plan and control rules may not be precautionary enough should the stock fall below abundance limits
  • Rebuilding plans are not set in the management plan. Recent developments in SNE suggest the plan maybe too flexible to allow for meaningful management action in the face of declining stock size.
  • Stock has an impact on deep-sea and other corals, but has been exempted from action by the management bodies
  • Fishery gear used has a demonstrated impact on critically endangered Right whales. Effect of mitigation measures not known.
  • Right whale rebuilding has stalled.
  • Reference points are based on historical performance rather than stock productivity.
     
RECOMMENDATIONS

Last updated on 28 June 2016

Improvement Recommendations to Catchers & Regulators

1. Work actively to address and close out conditions placed upon the certification of the US and Canadian fisheries in the agreed timeframe.
2. Report achievements publicly to share progress with buyers.

Recommendations to Retailers & Supply Chain

1. Contact the MSC client fishery (details are available on the MSC website) and request timely implementation of improvement action to address conditions.
2. Express your support to help meet conditions that may be at a government/regulatory level (where applicable).

US Gulf of Maine
United States
Traps

Last updated on 28 June 2016

Improvement Recommendations to Catchers & Regulators

1. Identify and rectify issues that are preventing the assessment from being completed in the agreed timeframe.
2. Report achievements publicly to share progress with buyers.

Recommendations to Retailers & Supply Chain

1. Contact the MSC client fishery (details are available on the MSC website) and request timely implementation of improvement action to proceed with the Full Assessment.
2. Express your support to help meet conditions that may be at a government/regulatory level (where applicable). Please contact the relevant SFP Sector Group or Supplier Roundtable for more specific information.

Pots

Last updated on 28 June 2016

Improvement Recommendations to Catchers & Regulators

1. Identify and rectify issues that are preventing the conditions from being closed out in the agreed timeframe.
2. Report achievements publicly to share progress with buyers.

Recommendations to Retailers & Supply Chain

1. Contact the MSC client fishery (details are available on the MSC website) and request timely implementation of improvement action to address conditions.
2. Express your support to help meet conditions that may be at a government/regulatory level (where applicable). Please contact the relevant SFP Sector Group or Supplier Roundtable for more specific information.

1.STOCK STATUS

STOCK ASSESSMENT

Last updated on 11 July 2017

The current quantified approach to stock estimations was last conducted in 2015. It utilized a new length-based modeling approach developed by the University of Maine (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2015). This approach is a statistical length-based model that tracks lobsters in 5 mm size bins by sex, and includes fishery dependent sampling, catch, bottom trawl surveys, ventless trap surveys, and larval settlement data to estimate stock size relative to management set reference points (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2015).

Model diagnostic indicated that this was a robust method and was applied appropriately to the stock (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2015). The approach tends to underestimate the number of larger lobsters in the population, but there was, however, no retrospective pattern seen (ASMFC 2015).

SCIENTIFIC ADVICE

Last updated on 11 July 2017

In addition to model based approaches, a series of model-free indicators are used. These include overall landing and catch, CPUE, fishery independent indices of stock size, and other metrics in a “traffic-light” approach to aid managers in decision making (ASMFC 2015).

REFERENCE POINTS

Last updated on 11 July 2017

The abundance reference points (in millions of individuals) is based on the average abundance 1982-2003. The 25th percentile is set as the threshold, while the 75th percentile is set as the target. Likewise, the exploitation based reference points are also an average of the years 1982-2003. The upper limit of exploration being is the 75th percentile of the 1982-2003 period and the target exploitation is set at the 25th percentile (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2016).

Current reference points:

Exploitation threshold = 0.5
Exploitation target = 0.47
Abundance threshold = 66 (millions of lobster)
Abundance target = 107 (millions of lobster)

CURRENT STATUS

Last updated on 11 July 2017

Stock is in good shape. The three-year relative exploitation is above target but below the limit. Abundance is greater than twice the target level.  Landings have been high. Recruitment is above the time series average (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2016)

TRENDS

Last updated on 11 July 2017

Both stock abundance and landings have increased dramatically since the mid-1990’s (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2016). As a result, Relative exploitation has been constant over the time series.  Recruitment for this stock has recently declined after a time series high in 2011.

2.MANAGEMENT QUALITY

MANAGERS' DECISIONS

Last updated on 11 July 2017

Quotas are not used in this fishery. Instead a combination of permit limits, size limits, and gear restrictions are used to control effort and landings (ASMFC 2016). Additionally, managers use “V-notching” a process by which egg bearing females are marked and then released is in use.  It is illegal to harvest or land egg-bearing or V-notched lobsters (ASMFC 2016). V-notching lasts about at least one molt.

Managers have generally complied with scientific advice in the past for this stock. Because the status of the stock has been good for many years, conservation measures have not  been implemented in recent history (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2016). However, an adjacent stock (Southern New England), managed by the same Board under the same fishery management plan (FMP) has had no meaningful action taken despite being at low stock levels for a number of years (ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2016). This indicates that the FMP may not be precautionary should this stock fall below the abundance limit.

RECOVERY PLANS

Last updated on 11 July 2017

As suggested in Managers' Decisions, rebuilding schedules are set only after the stock is below the abundance threshold with an indeterminate and flexible schedule. Stock, currently, is not in a need for re-building.

COMPLIANCE

Last updated on 11 July 2017

Harvest of lobsters is generally monitored well. All dealers that buy lobsters from any harvester must report landings weekly or daily. Federal permit holders (fishing outside of the three-mile state limit), must report daily landings monthly. Harvesters must also comply with minimum and maximum size limits as well as gear restrictions (ASMFC 2016).

However, numerus reports are available which indicates that some harvesters are not in compliance (Betts 2017)(Betts 2013)(Overton 2017)(Rappaport 2016)(Staff 2015)(Staff 2016)(Staff 2017); whether this is due to a wide spread problem or the result of increased enforcement activities is unknown. Despite this, neither the assessment committee nor the managers have indicated that illegal activity is a problem for this fishery(ASMFC 2015)(ASMFC 2016)

3.ENVIRONMENT AND BIODIVERSITY

ETP SPECIES

Last updated on 11 July 2017

The U.S. lobster trap/pot fishery is classified as a Category I fishery (under the MMPA) that has a historical incidental bycatch of four large whales — the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), the Western North Atlantic stock of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), the Western Atlantic stock of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and Canadian East Coast stock of minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) (NOAA 2016). As such the gear type frequently entangles and kills large whales. Of these the Right whale is the most concerning, with only 440 individuals left in the population (NMFS 2017).

In 2014 more restrictive gear specifications to reduce entanglements of Right and other large whales was implemented (NOAA 2014). Because these rules are relatively new it is not possible to gauge the success of these measures.

An assessment of the North Atlantic right whale stock was conducted in 2017 which suggests that population rebuilding has stalled with some decline noted (NMFS 2017). The authors however cautioned that changes in Right whale distribution could be a potential cause to the reduced numbers of individuals. That said the potential biological removal for this stock is 1 per year. Human induced mortality from gear entanglements and ship strikes has averaged greater than 5 per year since 2010.

OTHER TARGET AND BYCATCH SPECIES

Last updated on 11 July 2017

Only pots and traps are allowed to land lobster for commercial purposes with the exception of a small bycatch allowance in other fisheries. Pot and Traps are ranked “Very Low” for bycatch compared with other gear types (Bannister, et al, 2013). Additionally, there are gear modifications which prevent large lobsters from entering the gear, while also allowing smaller lobsters to escape. This couple with biodegradable panels suggest that lobster bycatch and mortality is minimal.

Bycatch and bycatch mortality for other species is not well documented. However there has been recent concerns over fin-fish bycatch and mortality, particularly cod . While this has been somewhat refuted, debate is still ongoing (Graves 2014)(Staff 2014). There is growing concern that lobster trap bycatch maybe a significant and unrecorded portion of cod mortality. The issue is current still hotly debated and is being studied by both NMFS and academia (Staff 2017)

HABITAT

Last updated on 11 July 2017

While the type of gear used (pot and trap) has lower disturbance rates when compared to mobile gear types (such as trawls), there are still potential habitat impacts, particularly during haul back and when pots “drift” due to currents or storms. These impacts are not well documented or understood (Bannister, et al, 2013 (NEFMC 2017) ). Affected habitats could include sponge fields cold water corals, and kelp groves. Because of this, the MSC has placed conditions on certification (SAI Global 2016) and the ASMFC begun management action to examine the issue (ASMFC, 2014).

The action by the ASMFC resulted in only a few research recommendations (ASMFC, 2014). In 2016 the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) took up the task of protecting deep-sea habitats; particularly deep-sea corals (NEFMC 2017). Despite known and potential effects of lobster gear on deep sea corals, though less than mobile gear impacts, the NEFMC voted to except lobster and other pot gear from their proposed coral protection zones (NEFMC 2017)(Staff 2017).

MARINE RESERVES

Last updated on 11 July 2017

There are not currently any closed areas (spatial or temporal) in the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery. The use of closed areas was proposed for the Gulf of Maine in 1997 but was not approved.

FishSource Scores

Last updated on 11 July 2017

SELECT SCORES

MANAGEMENT QUALITY

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is ≥ 6.

There is a management plan in place with defined target and limit biomass and fishing mortality reference points. However rebuilding schedules are set only after the stock is below the abundance threshold with an indeterminate and flexible schedule.

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is ≥ 8.

Managers have generally complied with scientific advice in the past for this stock. Because the status of the stock has been good for many years, conservation measure have not needed to be implemented in recent history

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is ≥ 8.

Despite reports of illegal fishing, compliance has not been raised as an issue by ASMFC or other entities.

STOCK HEALTH:

As calculated for 2013 data.

This measures the Abundance as a percentage of the Ntrp.

The Abundance is 28600 ('000 individuals). The Ntrp is 10700 ('000 individuals) .

The underlying Abundance/Ntrp for this index is 267%.

As calculated for 2013 data.

This measures the Harvest rate U as a percentage of the Target harvest rate U.

The Harvest rate U is 0.483 . The Target harvest rate U is 0.500 .

The underlying Harvest rate U/Target harvest rate U for this index is 96.7%.

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE RISK

High Medium Low

This indicates the potential risk of human rights abuses for all fisheries operating within this stock or assessment unit. If there are more than on risk level noted, individual fisheries have different levels. Click on the "Select Scores" drop-down list for your fisheries of interest.

No data available for recruitment
DATA NOTES
  • Managers do not set quotas for this stock, instead a combination of size limits, permit limits, and trap limits are used to control catch and effort. As such scores 1, 2, and 3 were determined qualitatively.
  • Fishing mortality as Relative exploitation rate of lobster >78 mm CL using the 1982-2003 period.
  • Status is determined as the three-year moving average of Relative exploitation and is what is shown.

Download Source Data

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Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

No related FIPs

Certifications

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

SELECT MSC

NAME

Gulf of Maine lobster fishery

STATUS

MSC Certified on 13 December 2016

SCORES

Principle Level Scores:

Principle Score
Principle 1 – Target Species 85.6
Principle 2 – Ecosystem 81.3
Principle 3 – Management System 81.3

Certification Type: Silver

Sources

Credits
  1. ASMFC, 2009a. Stock Assessment Report No. 09-01 (Supplement) of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission American Lobster Stock Assessment Report for Peer Review. http://www.asmfc.org
  2. ASMFC, 2009b. Overview of Stock Status Gulf of Maine & Georges Bank Stocks of American Lobster, Homarus americanus Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.http://www.asmfc.org
  3. ASMFC, 2009c. Species Profile: American Lobster Board Initiates Addendum to Consider New Biological Reference Points. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. http://www.asmfc.org
  4. ASMFC, 2009d. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Draft Addendum XVI to the American Lobster Fishery Management Plan; for Public Comment. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. http://www.asmfc.org
  5. ASMFC, 2009e Review of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Management Plan for American Lobster (Homarus americanus) http://www.asmfc.org
  6. ASMFC, 2010 ADDENDUM XVI TO THE AMERICAN LOBSTER FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLAN: Reference Points Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Washington DChttp://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file/addendumXVI.pdf
  7. ASMFC, 2014. ADDENDUM XXIII TO AMENDMENT 3 TO THE INTERSTATE FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR AMERICAN LOBSTER Habitat Considerations. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Washington DC.http://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file/53ebd78bamLobsterAddendumXXIII_Habitat_Aug2014.pdf
  8. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). 2006. American lobster stock assessment for peer review. Stock assessment report No. 06-03 (Supplement). January 2006. http://www.asmfc.org/speciesDocuments/lobster/annualreports/stockassmtreports/americanLobsterStockAssessmentReport06.pdf
  9. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). 2006. Terms of Reference & Advisory Report for the American Lobster Stock Assessment Peer Review. July 2006.http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/sos/spsyn/iv/lobster/archives/32_AmericanLobster_2006.pdf
  10. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). 2007. Addendum XI to Amendment 3 to the American Lobster Fishery Management Planhttp://www.asmfc.org/speciesDocuments/lobster/fmps/addendumXI.pdf
  11. Bannister, C., Powles, H., McCay, B., Knapman, P. 2013. MSC Assessment Report for Maine Lobster Trap Fishery. Version 5: Public Certification Report. Intertek Moody Marine, February 2013. 250pphttp://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/in-assessment/north-west-atlantic/Maine_lobster_trap_fishery/assessment-downloads-1/20130308_PCR_LOB70.pdf
  12. Federal Register. 2009 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 229 List of Fisheries for 2010. Federal Register. Vol 7 Num 11http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/fr/fr74-27739.pdf
  13. Idoine, J. 2006. American Lobsterhttp://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/sos/spsyn/iv/lobster/archives/32_AmericanLobster_2006.pdf
  14. NMFS, 2014. List of Fisheries. NOAA Office of Protected Resourceshttp://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/interactions/lof/final2014.htm
  15. Zhang Y. Chen, Y. 2007. Modeling and evaluating ecosystem in 1980s and 1990s for American lobster (Homarus americanus) in the Gulf of Maine. Ecological modeling. 203: 475–489http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolmodel
References

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