|Photo courtesy of Laurie Cates|
Today is Earth Day. A time to reflect on the health of world. Many of the day's headlines will focus on the need to tackle climate change and protect endangered species. But Earth Day is also an opportunity to celebrate examples of successful management of our precious natural resources. The Maine lobster industry is one such example.
While over fishing has sadly led to the decline of other Maine fisheries such as cod, haddock and halibut, smart conservation measures have helped preserve the lobster stock. For every lobster that comes onto the market, approximately three are sent back into the water for conservation. Baited lobster traps on the ocean floor help this brood stock thrive by supplying it with a steady food supply. In many ways, the Maine lobster industry has become a textbook example of how communities successfully protect and defend the resource on which they rely.
The abundance of the Maine lobster catch is due largely to the four critical conservation measures the fishermen, along with government officials, put in place many years ago. They are as follows:
1. Young lobsters, called juveniles, cannot be harvested. Until they reach a size of over 3.25 inches on the carapace, they must be returned to the ocean. A metal gauge is used to check the carapace size. An average lobster in Maine waters will live and grow for about seven years before it is of harvestable size.
2. Large lobsters, more than five inches on the carapace, cannot be harvested. These lobsters are considered “forever wild” and must be returned to the ocean when caught. As with small lobsters, a metal gauge is used to check the carapace size of large lobsters.
3. Female lobsters that are pregnant (egg-bearing) or marked with a special, man-made notch in their inner right flipper cannot be harvested. They must be returned to the wild. Months or years down the line, if these female lobsters are no longer bearing eggs or have outshed their V-notches, it may be possible to harvest them.
4. All lobsters must be caught in traps—no dragging or diving is allowed. The traps must include escape vents for undersize lobsters, as well as biodegradable escape hatches to free lobsters in lost traps.
Yes, climate change is likely also impacting the current abundance of lobsters along the coast of Maine and that is not such a good thing. But I'm a positive person and this Earth Day I'm choosing celebrate a story of sustainability and add an optimistic headline to world! Happy Earth Day everyone.