Photos of the Long Island Sound

Research & Monitoring

Status and Trends: LISS Environmental Indicators

Lobster Abundance

CTDEEP Long Island Sound Trawl Survey (fall sampling) * No fall survey was conducted in 2010 due to research vessel being out of service.

Lobster Abundance
  Count per Tow
1984 7.41
1985 3.33
1986 4.75
1987 5.95
1988 3.54
1989 3.75
1990 7.29
1991 9.9
1992 9.52
1993 11.5
1994 10.13
1995 8.05
1996 10.07
1997 19.6
1998 10.47
1999 11.18
2000 6.83
2001 4.28
2002 2.68
2003 3.03
2004 3.68
2005 2.1
2006 1.48
2007 1.21
2008 2.07
2009 1.82
2010   −
2011 .38
2012 .29
2013 .16
2014 .09
2015 .08

WHAT IS THE AMERICAN LOBSTER?

The American lobster (Homarus americanus) lives in the cold waters of the Northeastern US and Canada, including Long Island Sound,  and range offshore as far south as Virginia. In US waters three separate lobster stocks are recognized:  the Gulf of Maine where they are very abundant, Georges Bank where populations are stable or increasing, and southern New England where abundance has dramatically declined in the last decade.

Lobsters are social, territorial crustaceans that live in a variety of different habitats, preferring areas that have a rocky or firm mud bottom they can burrow into. Studies have shown that inshore lobsters like those in the Sound have localized movements, while offshore lobsters seasonally migrate from as far as the edge of the continental shelf to inshore waters to spawn in late spring and summer.

WHAT DOES THIS INDICATE?

Because most of the Sound’s lobster population does not migrate, the standardized catch of lobster from the CTDEEP Long Island Sound Trawl Survey is used to assess the relative abundance of the local stock. The trawl index is a more accurate representation of abundance than lobster landings because landings are influenced by how each fisherman sets their gear, how often they fish, and socio-economic factors such as market price.

STATUS

The above graph shows the trend of lobster abundance in the fall (note that no data are available for 2010).  The spring index for American lobster has also been steadily declining, but is now higher than the fall index. Both indices have remained below the time-series average since 2003, with the fall index now at only about 2% of the average, and less than 1% of the peak value.  The spring index fares slightly better, at about 10% of the historic average. One of the factors implicated in the lobster population decline is increased summer water temperatures in Long Island Sound.

DATA NOTE

  • The above graph depicts data from CTDEEP’s fall trawl survey.
  • The survey uses geometric mean instead of arithmetic mean to find the most frequently observed  number of  fish collected per tow. In a natural environment such as Long Island Sound  fish have a “patchy” distribution, i.e. some areas will have a very high abundance of fish, and other areas very low abundance or no fish at all. An arithmetic mean can be easily biased by unusually high or low values so that it doesn’t reflect the true center of a data set.  The geometric mean minimizes the effects of very high or low values using a log transformation and is a better average for this type of biological data.
Subscribe to receive our e-newsletter, Sound Bytes by providing your email address. Interested in a free copy of our print newsletter, Sound Update? Then also provide your home/company/school address.