The lobster fishery is synonymous with New England’s coast, providing food, economic and cultural value since the colonial era. Nowhere is this more evident than in Maine. For many coastal communities, the lobster fishery has provided stability and a sense of place that is more important today than in the past. Increased landings in the fishery, combined with reduced fishing opportunities in other fisheries, create a significant economic dependence on the lobster fishery. The area covered by the fishery has changed over the past 20-30 years with fishery landings shifting farther offshore and farther to the eastern portion of the range of U.S. lobster fishing. Information on the spatial characteristics of the lobster fishery are generally understood by the industry and managers, but are poorly quantified.
Mapping of lobster fishing patterns has been an objective of regional ocean planning efforts1,2. This effort has been hampered by lack of regional spatial characterization products with sufficient resolution or consistency to determine how other ocean uses, particularly place-based uses, would impact lobster fishing locally, sub-regionally, and regionally.
The Island Institute used interviews with Maine lobstermen to better understand spatial use patterns in the lobster fishery, and how lobstermen view new and shifting uses of the ocean in the context of their lobster fishing businesses. Lobstermen were selected in all lobster management zones, with an emphasis on lobstermen who fish federal waters because the developing New England Regional Ocean Plan focuses on federal waters.