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The influence of wind and temperature on the catch rate of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) during spring fisheries off eastern Canada

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The effects of wind and temperature on catch rate of American lobster (Homarus americanus) in the Baie des Chaleurs and off Cape Breton Island in Eastern Canada were investigated. Data on lobster catch and the number of trap hauls were available through a fishermen's volunteer logbook program, bottom temperatures were measured from thermistors either moored nearby or placed inside lobster traps and wind measurements were obtained from local airports. In the Baie des Chaleurs and off the east coast of Cape Breton, a positive and significant correlation was found between the mean temperature change during the 24 h prior to the traps being hauled and the change in the average catch of lobsters per trap haul. Catch rates rose with increasing bottom temperatures and fell with declining bottom temperatures. Higher correlations between changes in temperature and catch rates occurred at sites where the temperature variance was greater. The short-term fluctuations in lobster catch rates corresponding to temperature changes are hypothesized to result from behavioral changes affecting lobster activity. In both study areas, the large temperature variability was mainly forced by alongshore winds producing upwelling and downwelling, consistent with a classical Ekman response. The effect of the winds on lobster catch is shown to be principally due to their influence on ocean bottom temperatures. Along the south coast of Cape Breton, no relationship was found between catch rates and either temperature or wind, perhaps because lower lobster abundance resulted in a lower signal-to-noise ratio. The results of this study qualitatively support the observations by fishermen of a wind-induced effect on lobster catch rates.
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Keywords: American lobster; Ekman response; catch rate; temperature; winds

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Box 1006, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada B2Y 4A2 2: Gulf Fisheries Centre, Box 5030, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada E1C 9B6

Publication date: 2006-03-01

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