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UNH researchers track lobster migrations to improve population estimates
Date:12/9/2008

DURHAM, N.H. Jason Goldstein checks his lobster traps in New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary once a week, but not for tasty crustaceans to sell. Instead, the University of New Hampshire Ph.D. candidate is fitting these lobsters with transmitters and tracking their migrations year-round.

Goldstein has tracked lobsters along the New Hampshire coastline and into Great Bay throughout the past two years. This research, funded by N.H. Sea Grant, will provide more accurate information about the sources of juvenile lobsters and interactions between the population stocks in New England. The information could improve the management of this economically valuable fishery, thus allowing lobster to remain front-and-center among the New England menu choices.

Goldstein and UNH professor of zoology Win Watson are particularly interested in the movements of "berried" females, those carrying eggs. This year, they are comparing the berried females' movements with those of the large- and small-sized males and females without eggs. Where the berried females go, so go their eggs, and those movements likely have implications for New England lobster populations.

"We often go diving one day and there are a lot of lobsters around, and the next day they're all gone and have moved offshore," Watson says. "There's a dramatic shift that takes place in late autumn and causes them to move out into deeper water."

Watson and other researchers believe this drive to migrate is primarily due to water temperatures. The deep offshore waters are consistently warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than shallower water close to the shore, Watson explains. Lobster migrations might also be driven by turbulence in the water, particularly during autumnal storms.

"They are very mobile animals and move around to avoid bad conditions," Watson says. He notes that the average lobster can walk from the Isles of Shoals to the New Hampshire shore up to 10
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Contact: Rebecca Zeiber
rebecca.zeiber@unh.edu
603-749-1565
University of New Hampshire
Source:Eurekalert  

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