As Ocean Waters Warm, Maine Agency Offers Grants to Boost Lobster Conservation Research

As soon as the first trap of the day is lifted onto his boat 10 miles off the coast of Portland, Jim Ranaghan is consumed with separating the keepers from the lobsters he will toss back into the ocean. Occasionally, he will pause to measure a lobster or check for a dense cluster of eggs on its tail.

For Ranaghan and Maine lobstermen like him who consider themselves protectors of the state’s signature natural resource, this is how it’s done. Fishery managers are determined to keep it that way.

And what better way than to award grants that will help researchers gain a keener understanding of lobsters. The Maine Department of Marine Resources is awarding six grants totaling $340,000 from the Lobster Research, Education and Development Fund. That money is derived from the sale of lobster license plates.

Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the state agency, says the grants will position the lobster industry to adapt to climate changes in the Gulf of Maine and preserve and conserve the popular crustacean population.

University of Maine researchers were awarded five of the six grants including two to Yong Chen. The marine science professor will develop scientific models to predict how climate change will impact lobster environments as well as computer simulations to measure the effects of conservation measures.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said research and conservation are among the priorities behind grants that support marine protected areas and sustainable fishing. GrantWatch lists funding opportunities including funds that provide for: grants for environmental concerns, scientific research, policy analysis, management support, and public communication efforts.

Lobstermen in Maine take great pride in the state’s conservation measures, which go beyond outlining which lobsters can and cannot be harvested. Traps are specially designed to catch as few illegal lobsters as possible, and zoning laws, haul limits and other licensing and management regulations help maintain a stable population in Maine’s coastal waters.

Because of those statutes, the Maine lobster industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom. Since 2011, lobstermen have hauled in more than 100 million pounds of American lobster each year. That’s twice as many as the previous decade and five times as much as 30 years ago.

But, some fear the Gulf of Maine is getting warmer, which could be problematic for lobsters. Too much warm water, some researchers say, is to blame for a fall-off in the lobster catch in southern New England. And of concern to Maine lobster interests, catches dropped by 20 million pounds, from 132 million in 2016 to 110 million last year.

Academic entities, researchers, nonprofits and concerned citizens frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities in support land, water and wildlife conservation that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch

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