A US- Canada Science Symposium : The American Lobster in a changing Ecosystem

This proposal requests support from CINAR for a US-Canada Science Symposium on the
theme of the American Lobster in a Changing Ecosystem, in Portland, Maine,
November 27-30th, 2012. The need for the symposium springs from the consensus among
the scientific community that the striking changes occurring in New England and Atlantic
Canada’s lobster population is best viewed in an ecosystem context.
Coastal and shelf waters of the Northwest Atlantic, home to the American lobster, have
undergone dramatic change in our lifetime. The status of the American lobster over the
last decade is a story of contrasts. On one hand, in Maine, Nova Scotia and other parts of
Maritime Canada, lobster numbers have climbed to historic highs, while at the southern
end of the species’ range, in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, populations have
been plagued by disease and mass mortality. As other fisheries have been depleted, the
economies of many coastal communities in Atlantic Canada and the Northeast USA are
more dependent on the lobster fishery than ever before. Meanwhile as disease takes its
toll in the south, for the first time harvesters have had to consider a moratorium on their
fishery. Such dramatic changes after decades of relative stability highlight the need for a
greater understanding of the lobster in the context of a changing environment. The need
is timely as fishery managers grapple with how to integrate traditional single-species
management approaches with the mandate for ecosystem-based approaches.
Whether induced by man or nature, fundamental changes have occurred over the past few
decades in the marine environment and food web of the North Atlantic. What do we
know now that we didn’t know even a decade ago? What are the common US-Canadian
research priorities? How can researchers move forward with an agenda that makes the
best use of dwindling funds? Topics to be addressed by this symposium will include, but
are not limited to: climate change effects, foodweb interactions, physiological and
genomic responses to environmental change, disease susceptibility, and population
Why a science symposium now? Although there are frequent opportunities to share
science with the fishing industry and other stake holders, there have been fewer
opportunities for the scientific community itself to network, synthesize results, and take
strides in forging new collaborations and research priorities. The 8th International
Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management recently held in Norway,
while informative, was poorly attended by students of the American lobster, largely
because of travel costs. Moreover, major research initiatives, many of which have been
supported by NOAA, are beginning to generate interesting results across the species’
range. These include: shell disease research in southern New England; industrysupported
hatchery-based enhancement efforts in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence;
studies of the ecology and economics of coupled human-natural systems in the Gulf of
Maine; establishment of baseline health parameters and response to disease, as well as
long-term studies tracking the molt cycle in Atlantic Canada; and, parallel studies of
larval connectivity on both sides of the border.