Supporting Management of the Emerging Jonah Crab Fishery and the Iconic Lobster Fishery in the Northeast USA


Lobsters sampled to date


(As of September 13, 2019)



(As of September 13, 2019)

General Description:

The CFRF Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet project focuses on implementing a cost-effective method to collect critically needed biological data for two commercially important species, the Jonah crab (Cancer borealis) and the American lobster (Homarus americanus). The project employs a fishing vessel research fleet approach, with 21 lobster and Jonah crab fishing vessels using digital calipers and the On-Deck Data app to collect biological data from the catch in commercial and ventless traps. Participant vessels also collect Jonah crabs for size at maturity analysis, which is conducted in collaboration with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Project GoalS:

  1. Continue the Jonah crab and lobster biological time series (2013 – 2015) developed by the successful CFRF On-Deck Data Pilot Project.

  2. Collect and communicate spatially and temporally explicit biological data on Jonah crab to support the development of a management plan and stock assessment.

  3. Determine the size at maturity of male and female Jonah crabs in the Southern New England (SNE), Georges Bank (GB), and Gulf of Maine (GOM) regions.

  4. Better inform the lobster stock assessment by providing essential data on the size, sex, and reproductive structure of the lobster stock, particularly from under-sampled offshore areas.

  5. Demonstrate a model approach to data collection, management, analysis, and utilization that can be duplicated in a cost effective way in other fisheries.

interested in being involved? (see briefing document and application form below):

Participant Vesse

  • F/V Ashley Ann - Point Judith, RI

  • F/V Barbara Ann- Point Judith, RI

  • F/V Blue Moon - Newport, RI

  • F/V Bug Catcha- Port Clyde, ME

  • F/V Catherine Ann - Newport, RI

  • F/V Cailyn Gregory - Sakonnet Point, RI

  • F/V Carol Coles- Newington, NH

  • F/V Dana Conant- Newington, NH

  • F/V Direction - Fairhaven, MA

  • F/V Erica Knight - Point Judith, RI

  • F/V Excalibur -Newport, RI

  • F/V Gladys Elaine - Newington, NH

  • F/V Karen Ann - Point Judith, RI

  • F/V Lady Clare - Point Judith, RI

  • F/V Miss Julie - Sandwich, MA

  • F/V Nathaniel Lee - Newport, RI

  • F/V Revolution - New Bedford, MA

  • F/V Select - Point Judith, RI

  • F/V Terri-Ann - Sandwich, MA

  • F/V Two Dukes - Sea Isle City, NJ

  • F/V Virginia Marie - Sandwich, MA

Data Collection Strategies:

At-sea data collection is focused on 1) Retained and discarded lobsters, 2) Retained and discarded Jonah crabs, and 3) Bottom water temperature. All data is collected, stored, and viewed on Android 10" Nexus tablets. In addition to the at-sea Jonah crab biological data collection, individual crabs are collected by fleet participants for macroscopic gonad analysis by scientists at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.  

Lobster Data Collection:

Participant vessels sample a minimum of 300 lobsters or 60 commercial traps per month. Data for lobsters caught in a three ventless traps is also reported, and lobstermen have the option of entering notes about weather conditions, bycatch, habitat type, etc.

Lobster data parameters include:

  • Carapace length

  • Sex

  • Females - Egg bearing and/or V-notch

  • Severity of shell disease

  • Shell hardness

  • Retained/Discarded

The date/time, location, depth, soak time, statistical area, and number of traps processed are also recorded for each sampling event.

View the detailed lobster data collection strategy here

Equipment being used:

  • Android 10" Google Nexus Tablet

  • DryCase waterproof tablet case

  • Custom-made "On Deck Data" App

    • Trawl Selection

    • Commercial Trap Sampling

    • Ventless Trap Sampling

    • Reviewing and Uploading Data

  • Mututoyo waterproof calipers

Jonah Crab Data Collection:

Participant vessels sample a minimum of 150 Jonah crabs or 60 commercial traps per month. Discarded and retained Jonah crabs are sampled from commercial crab gear, commercial lobster gear, and ventless traps. 

Jonah crab data parameters include:

  • Carapace Width

  • Sex

  • Females - Egg bearing

  • Shell hardness

  • Retained/Discarded

Trap configuration is recorded in coordination with biological sampling. The date/time, location, depth, soak time, statistical area, and number of traps processed are also recorded for each sampling event. 

View the On-Deck Data Jonah crab data collection strategy here

Jonah Crab Sexual Maturity:

Participants vessels collect male and female Jonah crabs from five regions (Inshore Southern New England, Offshore Southern New England, Georges Bank, Inshore Gulf of Maine, and Offshore Gulf of Maine) for macroscopic gonad analysis.  

Jonah crab morphometrics include:

  • Carapace width and length

  • Crab depth

  • Claw length and height

After each crab is measured, the carapace is removed and gonads are examined microscopically to determine maturity status. A sample of female gonad is taken using forceps to measure individual ova under a microscope.


Each vessel selects a fixed site within their normal fishing area to designate as a bottom temperature monitoring site. Bottom water temperature data is collected and recorded over the course of the year in coordination with the On Deck Data lobster and Jonah crab sampling practices of the fishing vessel.

View the CFRF Lobster Research Fleet bottom water temperature data collection strategy here

Equipment being used includes: 

  • VEMCO Minilog II temperature sensor

  • VEMCO Field Reader

  • Custom-made "Ocean Temps" app

    • Retrieve temperature data via Bluetooth

    • Record location, date/time, and depth

    • Instantly view time series of temperature data

    • Record notes about monitoring area or time period

    • Wirelessly upload temperature data to CFRF database

Piloting Bluetooth Technology:

  • CFRF is excited to announce the Research Fleet is piloting new bluetooth caliper technology (Jan 2018)

  • Scielex Vernier Bluetooth adapters and Mitutoyo Digimatic IP-67 calipers are currently being used.

Stay tuned for updates on our progress!









Project Timeline:

  • January 2013 - September 2015: On Deck Data Pilot Project, focusing on the development and demonstration of the Research Fleet approach (Click HERE to visit Pilot Project webpage).

  • October 2015 - March 2018: Continuation of Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet and investigation of Jonah crab sexual maturity with MA DMF (Supported by NOAA's Saltonstall-Kennedy Grants Program)

  • April 2017 - March 2018: Expansion of Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet to provide data coverage within the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument (Supported by The Campbell Foundation)

  • April 2018 - March 2020: Continuation and Expansion of the Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet and piloting of new sampling technology (Supported by NOAA's Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program)

  • Quarterly: Compilation of data summaries for Research Fleet participants

  • Semi-Annually: Submission of project data to the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program

Articles, News releases and Updates:

Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Session:

upcoming events:

  • May 7th-10th, 2019: Lowell Wakefield Symposium, Anchorage, AK

Past events:

  • December 5, 2017 : New England Fisheries Management Council Meeting, Newport, RI

  • January 10th, 2018: Southern New England Chapter AFS Winter Meeting, New Bedford, MA

  • January 18th-21st, 2018: MA Lobstermen's Association Annual Weekend & Trade Show, Hyannis MA

  • March 1-3rd, 2018: Maine Fishermen's Forum, Rockland, ME

  • March 18-22nd, 2018 : National Shellfisheries Association Annual Meeting, Seattle, Washington

  • August 19-23rd, 2018: American Fisheries Society Meeting, Atlantic City, NJ

  • January 16th, 2019: Southern New England Chapter AFS Winter Meeting, Storrs, CT

  • January 17th-20th, 2019: MA Lobstermen’s Association Annual Weekend & Trade Show, Hyannis, MA

  • January 28-31st, 2019: American Lobster Benchmark Stock Assessment Workshop, New Bedford, MA

  • February 28th-March 2nd, 2019: Maine Fishermens’s Forum, Rockland, ME

This project is supported by:


Project Photos: