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Improving Lobster Trap Selectivity

We will test a simple trap modification that allows the escape of groundfish from the trap without any loss of lobster. This modification entails modification to the trap so groundfish can swim and escape prior to hauling. Lobsters are expected to remain inside the trap despite the presence of the escape opening.

To test the efficacy this modification we will apply a two-pronged approach. The first will be to use underwater camera gear to document and characterize lobster and groundfish behavior as they enter a standard (control) and a modified (experimental) trap. Our video will also attempt to capture groundfish behavior to a trap, a possible first for the fishery and a key early step to inform the location and dimensions of the trap modification.

The second approach will include a comparative experiment with the control and experimental traps connected in a string (trawl). A total of 60 control traps and 60 experimental traps will be fished over a four month period from a commercial lobster boat. Statistical analysis of catch data will test the null hypothesis there is no significant difference between catch rates or size (length) of lobster and groundfish between trap types.

This project will produce several benefits including i) improving our understanding of the behavior of lobster and groundfish as they enter a trap, ii) providing evidence of the efficacy of a simple trap modification to reduce groundfish capture, iii) reducing mortality of overfished groundfish due to capture in lobster traps and facilitating their recovery, iv) providing a foundation upon which to build future efforts to refine trap design and reduce groundfish capture in lobster traps, and v) providing lobster fishermen additional opportunity to demonstrate stewardship and responsiveness should the incidental capture of groundfish become a significant issue and threat to the lobster fishery.

This project is a collaboration with Captain Steve Train – F/V Wild Irish Rose