The American or Northern lobster lives in the cold waters of the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. Inshore populations of lobster are abundant from Newfoundland through New Jersey, and offshore populations are primarily harvested from the Gulf of Maine through the Hudson Canyon area. Although some mixing of these populations occurs, they are considered to be distinct groups. Both the inshore and offshore waters that surround Long Island support an abundant lobster resource.
Lobsters are solitary, territorial crustaceans that live in a variety of different habitats preferring areas that have a rocky or soft mud bottom to one that is sandy.
Lobsters are a long-lived animal that grows slowly by molting or shedding its shell. They reproduce when a recently molted soft-shelled female mates with a hard-shelled male in the summer or fall. The female generally extrudes and fertilizes the eggs about a year after mating, and then carries the eggs on her abdomen until they hatch the following spring or early summer. Hatched larvae go through a planktonic stage for about a month, and then permanently settle to the bottom. They can molt up to 10 times during their first growing season. The rate of growth and number of molts is dependent on the food supply, water temperature, sex, and geographic area. After the first year lobsters generally molt once or twice each year until they mature anywhere from 4 to 9 years after hatching.
Inshore lobsters like those in LI Sound are thought to only move in localized areas during their lifetime, while offshore lobsters often migrate long distances from the edge of the continental shelf to inshore waters in late spring and summer and back again in the fall. Lobsters eat a variety of slow moving bottom-dwelling shellfish like mussels, clams, sea urchins, starfish, worms, crabs - even small fish. They are nocturnal animals that generally avoid sunlight, and will seek out crevices in the rocks to spend the daylight hours, especially in shallow waters.
For more information about the American lobster, click here (courtesy of the NY Seafood Council)
The Lobster Industry:
Concern for a species of great economic and ecological importance
Lobster harvesting has been a Long Island tradition since colonial times. Lobsters are primarily harvested in Long Island Sound with baited pots that are set at the bottom and marked by buoys. The lobster pots used today are similar to the pots that were used throughout the Northeast for decades. But in recent years the lobster industry has implemented several improvements, one of which is an increase in the size of the opening in the pots, allowing more young and undersized lobster to return to open waters.
The American Lobster is one of the most important seafood products harvested in New York and Connecticut both in terms of the total value of lobsters landed and the number of commercial fishermen who make their living in the lobster fishery. Earning a dockside value in New York alone of over $29 million in 1998 according to National Marine Fisheries Service statistics, the lobster catch was greater than the value of all fin fish combined in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Their declines since Fall 1999 are therefore a cause for great concern.
For more information about LI Sound's lobster industry, click here (courtesy of the NY Seafood Council)