Lobster Reprieve

By Corby Kummer
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Ted Van Pelt/flickr


Last night, southern New England lobstermen (not, of course, all men) were very relieved to be spared the five-year ban that the American Lobster Management Board had been considering because of steep declines in lobster populations from Cape Cod to North Carolina. Fishermen said the ban would destroy their chances to make a living.

The outcome was left pending: at the meeting, reductions in catches of anywhere from 50 to 75 percent were discussed as alternatives, along with maintaining current levels. In a consensus that other wildlife managers might find short-sighted, the Lobster Board members at the meeting, according to a report in the Boston Globe, "eventually reached a consensus to move away from the ban after deciding that closing down a fishery in order to manage it seemed contradictory."

With lobster, as anyone who has read Food Channel contributor Trevor Corson's Secret Life of Lobsters knows, the reasons for rises and falls in the population are more mysteries than simple matters of overfishing. And, as he pointed out in a post last summer on a mysterious surplus of lobsters and lowering of their price, the lobster fishery in the Gulf of Maine has been well managed. (Defining their own turf in a sometimes violent Down East way, as he also chronicled for us, helped in the allocation.)

I don't know as much about the history of the southern New England and Mid-Atlantic management, though I do plan to give my annual thanks for the success of the Gulf of Maine management tomorrow night, when the family members who visit our friend Erika Pilver, in Spruce Head, gorge at our annual birthday feast she very generously hosts in a carnivorous, sometimes violent way that makes spouses (most notably mine, and my vegetarian brother-in-law) and decorous friends cringe and seek shelter from flying bits of shell.

And I know I'll be glad for southern New Englanders like this one the Globe quoted:

Diana Puleston, who has been unloading lobster boats for a decade off Point Judith, said, "If you take this industry away from us, you take the soul right out of the person.''

We'll be looking for further news on what limits the board does vote on, and the always-unpredictable news of lobster fluctuations.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/07/lobster-reprieve/60284/