March 23, 2002
12:55 PM   Subscribe

Science doesn't always take place in labs, and scientists aren't always the right folks to turn to for answers. Sometimes you just have to ask a lobsterman. [more inside]
posted by bragadocchio (5 comments total)
"Sir, I have a target, distance two hundred meters," the sonar operator said. "It looks big." The nuclear-powered submarine NR-1 was hovering 600 feet under water, on the edge of the continental shelf. Robert Steneck, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Maine, decided to check the target out. The helmsman nudged the sub forward, and Steneck, a short, energetic man with a thick red beard, slipped below the control room into the cramped observation module. There, through a six-inch-thick glass viewing portal, he was confronted with the biggest lobster he had ever seen. It was a female, about four feet long, weighing nearly forty pounds. She turned toward the sub as it came right up to her, nose to nose, and defiantly shook her claws...."
posted by bragadocchio at 12:56 PM on March 23, 2002

I'm happy that things have worked out in this instance and I hope that they continue to do so, but one thing that I do know is that lots of people are greedy and if there's money to be made, common sense be damned. If this is a link that you put up to prove that fishing practices are hunky dory, than you are very much mistaken.

The local lobstermen in this article seem to have some common sense; they know that if they destroy the fish stocks that they rely on, they'll be out of business in short order. There's plenty of short sighted fisherman that don't give a damn. The worldwide destruction of seafood stocks is a huge problem that most people seem unwilling to address.

Ocean Conservation: Seafood Watch
posted by mark13 at 1:33 PM on March 23, 2002

That was a fascinating read! Although my roommate now
thinks I'm nuts!

posted by black8 at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2002

Dumping billions of gallons of sewage into the ocean everyday is far more deadly to seafood stocks than any fleet of commercial fisherman. As long as people keep ignoring fundamental facts things will never improve.
Case in point. mark13 linked to the prestigious Monterey Bay aquarium and even there they talk about managing commercial fleets but not a word about estauries being paved over or urban run off. Or sewage.
Think about that next time you flush your toilet.
posted by keithl at 2:05 PM on March 23, 2002

mark13, as someone who lives in the Mid-Atlantic region, and who finds the chance to sit around with friends and beers and steamed, old-bay-encrusted blue crabs to be one of life's great pleasures, I'm very concerned about fishing practices. I wonder at times if the local watermen have the good stewardship notions that the lobstermen in Maine seem to hold. We've been hearing about a decline in the blue crab population the last few years, and there are a large number of reasons that really need to be addressed.

I'm encouraged that an ecologist like Robert Steneck would get involved with the lobstermen, and actually see what he could learn from them.

Thanks for the link to the Monterray Bay Aquarium Chart. Making informed and reasoned purchasing choices is a good idea. I noticed it also seems to collaborate what the Atlantic Monthly article states:

Based on population models and other data, fisheries management agencies believe that current levels of fishing should be sending lobster populations into a decline. However, scientists studying this issue find that the lobster population doesn't seem to be declining. American lobsters are caught in traps with little bycatch, and the fishery is monitored closely. Considering all these factors together, we have moved American lobster from our Avoid list into Proceed with Caution, and are keeping a close watch on the situation.

The lobstermen take pride in their sustainable practices, including the use of a very old and extremely inefficient design of lobster trap. That's not true with a great deal of the commercial fishing industries. And with the many other industries that see the ocean as a dumping ground for anything they want to get rid of (A point which I see keithl makes, on preview).
posted by bragadocchio at 2:28 PM on March 23, 2002

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