Is the American lobster, Homarus americanus, overfished? A review of overfishing with an ecologically based perspective
The American lobster, Homarus americanus Milne Edwards, 1837, has been intensely fished for over 150 yrs, but its stocks and landings are greater now than ever before. In the Gulf of Maine, over the past two decades, abundance, landings, spawning potential, and catch per unit effort (CPUE) have increased and fishing mortality rate decreased. Maine's lobster densities are the world's highest (> 1 m−2 for much of the coast), and trawl surveys over the past two decades reveal a fivefold increase in large, reproductive-phase population densities throughout the region. Nevertheless, the official ("legal") eggs-per-recruit-based overfishing definition indicates that this species is now and has been overfished. Because populations cannot increase when reproductively limited, surplus reproductive capacity must have been available 20 yrs ago to initiate the recent population explosion. A recent review of the eggs-per-recruit biological reference point found it is neither robust nor appropriate for assessment data currently used. The unique biological efficiency of this species and its complex, ontogenetically segregated spatial distribution, together with harvesting inefficiency, make the American lobster fishery resilient but difficult to characterize with a single overfishing index. New and simpler ecologically based indices are needed to gauge and monitor trends toward overfishing of this species.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2006-05-01
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