Maine Delegation Announces $2 Million for Gulf of Maine Lobster Research, Establishment of Regional Lobster Extension Program

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01) and Jared Golden (D-ME-02) announced today that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program has awarded $2 million to support a range of research projects to advance our understanding of the American lobster as well as to support a regional lobster extension program. The projects being funded will address the following priorities: increased understanding of life history parameters, including migration, growth, and maturity; larval studies and early biology; spatial distribution; and socio-economic lessons learned from Southern New England as they pertain to Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.  


“Generations of Maine families have made their living from this fishery, and its enduring success is due in part to the research that has informed decision making and supported stewardship,” said Senator Collins. “These new research projects will help us develop and improve best practices to ensure that Maine’s lobster industry continues to thrive.”  


“For coastal communities, Maine’s lobster industry is more than a business – it’s a way of life that plays a major role in our state’s economy and helps Maine families up and down our coastline earn a living,” said Senator King. “Time and time again, Maine’s lobster fishery has proved to be one of the most adaptable and sustainable fisheries in the world as they adjust to change. These investments from the Sea Grant program will help the industry continue to flourish in the face of the warming waters brought on by climate change. As our lobster industry faces pressure on fronts ranging from the rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine to the Chinese trade war to proposed right whale regulations, I am proud to stand with my colleagues to fight for this industry’s lasting success.”


“The climate crisis has caused the Gulf of Maine to warm faster than any other body of water on the planet and Maine’s lobster industry needs to prepare for these changes,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “This multi-million dollar Sea Grant investment will support our lobster industry as it grapples with the impact of warming waters and prepares for the future. I’m glad to see NOAA directing funds to seven institutions in Maine which are at the forefront of ocean and fisheries research.”


“Between misguided new federal regulations and rising costs, lobstermen are getting squeezed from all sides right now. We’re working with the lobster industry to address these threats, but we also need to focus on the future and ensure our fishery can support the next generation of lobstermen. That means confronting climate change and understanding how it will affect lobsters and lobstermen. The critical Sea Grant funding announced today will support research at Maine institutions and help ensure Maine’s lobster industry thrives far into the future,” said Congressman Jared Golden.


Senator Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long worked to provide and protect funding for the National Sea Grant Program and was key in securing this $2 million for Gulf of Maine lobster research in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies’ (CJS’s) fiscal year 2019 bill.


In April 2018, Senator Collins co-led a letter with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) that was signed by a bipartisan group of 26 Senators, including Angus King to the Senate CJS subcommittee leadership in support of the National Sea Grant program.


Of the seven awards announced, four will be supporting research conducted by Maine-based institutions. UMaine’s Rick Wahle will lead a project to examine the disconnect between historic highs in Gulf of Maine lobster egg production and lows in young-of-year recruitment, evaluating the hypothesis that changes in the abundance and distribution of zooplankton prey may profoundly impact recruitment success. UMaine’s Damian Brady is the top researcher for another project at the university that will examine how climate-induced shifts in larval development time and settlement habitat affect lobster population connectivity. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute will spearhead two more projects. The first will examine how the industry prepares to avoid economic contraction in the case of declining landings and increasing operating costs. The second will look at how the experience of Southern New England fishing communities during the decline of American lobster populations in the late 1990s can offer lessons for lobstermen and communities in the Gulf of Maine. Lastly, the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve will conduct research related to the potential influence of increased water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine on the distribution of female lobsters and the impacts of these distribution shifts on larval recruitment.


In addition to new baseline research, Sea Grant is launching a regional lobster extension program designed to work with communities to link lobster research with the industry, resource managers, and other stakeholders across the Northeast. Maine Sea Grant, one of the 33 NOAA Sea Grant programs throughout the coastal and Great Lakes states, will provide leadership and overall coordination for the effort, and the New Hampshire, MIT, Woods Hole, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York Sea Grant programs will lead locally relevant components that contribute to the regional effort. These programs will each lead extension activities, to both serve local needs and contribute to the collective goals and objectives of the Regional Lobster Extension Program.