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

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Lobsters sampled to date

92,073

(as of May 24, 2017)

JOnah Crabs SAMPLED TO DATE

34,826

(as of May 24, 2017)

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 17 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.

Participant Vessels:

  • F/V Ashley Ann - Point Judith, RI
  • F/V Blue Moon - Newport, RI
  • F/V Catherine Ann - Newport, RI
  • F/V Cailyn Grace - Sakonnet Point, RI
  • F/V Debbie Ann - Point Judith, RI
  • 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 - Hyannis, MA
  • F/V Nathaniel Lee - Newport, RI
  • F/V Revolution -  New Bedford, MA
  • F/V Sakonnet Lobster II - Tiverton, RI
  • F/V Select - Point Judith, RI
  • F/V Two Dukes - Sea Isle City, NJ

 

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 250 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.

BOTTOM WATER TEMPERATURE MONITORING:  

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

Project Timeline:

  • October 2015- August 2017: Collection of lobster, Jonah crab, and bottom water temperature data by research fleet participants.
  • October 2015- November 2016: Collection of Jonah crab samples and laboratory analysis of Jonah crab size at maturity.
  • January 2016-August 2017: Preparation of quarterly data reports for research fleet participants and semi-annual data reports for the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program.
  • August 2017- September 2017: Data analysis and report preparation.