Much to be learned from info exchanged at recent international lobster conference


PORTLAND, ME – The so called “theme” of the 11th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management (ICWL) held here this past June might best be described as “An Industry at a Crossroads,” said co-chair Richard Wahle, marine biologist at the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences’ Darling Marine Center.

“So many things impact the ecology, production, and business of  lobsters,” Wahle said.

“We’re at an important junction where some lobster fisheries are booming, others declining, and the business of lobstering is altogether changing – as global markets expand and fishermen and dealers decide whether it’s better business to fish for value or for volume.”

Some 250 researchers and industry members from 14 countries attended the weeklong event.

Topics ranged from population genetics and reproductive biology to disease and parasites, and included a full day devoted to industry issues.

Lobster industry and fisheries managers from the US along with colleagues from the UK, Australia, Norway, Canada, Mexico, and the Mediterranean showcased the harvest and management techniques they use to get better yields, rebuild stocks, and expand markets.

Curt Brown, lobsterman and marketing director for Portland-based Ready Seafood, said having such a diverse international group was a learning experience as dealers compared notes.

“Successful New Zealand and Australian markets send lobsters straight to China,” Brown said. “It was informative to hear how other countries grow their markets.”

As a sponsor for the conference, Brown brought a group of about 40 conferees to the waterfront for a tour of Ready Seafood.

The 15 million-pound annual volume handled there stunned many of the visitors, Brown said.  What his plant does in a week, the Australians export in a year.

“It was a great opportunity to learn from other fisheries,” Brown said. “While we’re familiar with the American lobster, the rest of the world prefers other varieties like scampi, and spiny lobster.”

In the Caribbean, researchers are studying the impact of the PaV1 virus on social aggregations of the spiny lobster. The disease is often fatal, and infected lobsters are shunned by groups of lobster living in the same den.

While the spiny lobsters find safety in numbers, there are impacts on…

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