NOAA 99-R321
Contact: Pat Viets


A team of scientists, fishermen and resource managers in Maine is working together to demonstrate how satellite technology can be used to study the lobster population, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

The team is obtaining oceanographic data from NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary environmental satellites that will help determine the status of the lobster population in the Penobscot Bay ecosystem. This information is critical. Lobster landings have remained at historically high levels over the past several years, but concerns have been raised about the long-term sustainability of this important fishery.

"Satellites offer a unique opportunity to observe how the Penobscot Bay interacts with the offshore Gulf of Maine and possible lobster broodstock populations," said Lee Dantzler, of NOAA's Ocean Remote Sensing Program. The project will use the Internet to provide access to the data for use by resource managers, scientists and fishermen who are trying to answer these questions.

"State resource managers have never really had a good handle on predicting trends in our coastal fisheries, but through this project we are developing tools and techniques that can tell us whether lobster abundance is increasing or decreasing in the Bay," said State Planning Office Director Evan Richert. "It is a model we can use in other bays in the Gulf of Maine."

"Because Penobscot Bay is the center of the most valuable lobster grounds in the entire North Atlantic, where the future of the lobster resource is being questioned, this work especially is timely," said Philip Conkling, president of the Island Institute of Rockland, which is administering the project. "This project is the first time an interdisciplinary team of scientists has worked with a large number of fishermen to put together a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem of the largest bay in the Gulf of Maine."

The project, in its third year, involves more than 20 scientists, managers and 120 lobstermen. Funding was initiated by NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), which has contributed over $1.5 million to the effort so far. Working in cooperation with NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the Coastal Program of the Maine State Planning Office, NESDIS has just announced the award of $465,560 to the project for year four, which starts in September. Support by other public and private organizations will bring the project funding for next year to more than $750,000.