Wahle sheds light on 2016 record lobster haul

Rick Wahle, research professor at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, was an expert source for several stories about the record value of the 2016 lobster haul. Lobsters totaling nearly 131 million pounds that were caught last year had a total worth of $533 million at the docks, which exceeded the 2015 record by more than $30 million. Last year marked the seventh such record in a row. In a WLBZ (Channel 2) story, Wahle said the Gulf of Maine is in a sweet temperature spot for lobsters, but he said continued ocean warming could impact future landings. “Our indicators are we may be falling off this bubble in Eastern Maine in the next few years,” said Wahle, who added many lobster larvae are hatching but fewer are making it to the nursery as young lobsters.

Wahle’s lab at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole is the hub for the U.S.-Canadian monitoring program — the American Lobster Settlement Index. Since 1989, this diver-based survey, now carried out by a partnership of government and academic institutions, has annually censused newly settled postlarval lobsters repopulating coastal nurseries. Wahle and collaborators are developing tools to predict population trends by understanding larval transport, settlement and post-settlement processes. The Washington Post was one of many news organizations that carried Patrick Whittle’s AP story. Wahle is co-chairing a June conference in Portland, Maine focused on the impact of the changing ocean environment and the global economy on the biology and business of lobsters. Biologists, oceanographers, industry members and fishery managers from more than a dozen countries are expected to attend the 11th International Conference & Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management June 4–9 at Holiday Inn by the Bay.