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The Lobster Fishery of Maine Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission, Vol. 19, Pages 241-265, 1899   By: (1868-1930)

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JOHN N. COBB, Agent of the United States Fish Commission.

Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission , Vol. 19, Pages 241 265, 1899

[Illustration: The sailing smack Bar Bel of Rockland]

For some years past the condition of the lobster fishery of New England has excited the earnest attention of all interested in the preservation of one of the most valuable crustaceans of our country. In the State of Maine, particularly, where the industry is of the first importance, the steady decline from year to year has caused the gravest fears, and incessant efforts have been made by the United States Fish Commission, in conjunction with the State Fish Commission of Maine, to overcome this decline. This paper presents the results of an investigation by the writer in 1899. All statistics, when not otherwise stated, are for the calendar year 1898.

I am indebted to so many dealers, fishermen, and others for information given and courtesies extended that it is impossible to mention them by name; and I now extend to all my most sincere thanks for their many kindnesses.

[Illustration: The first steam smack to carry lobsters in a well]


Although the lobster has been of great value to the New England States and the British Provinces as a food commodity, but little was known of its life history and habits until within the last few years. To this ignorance has been due quite largely peculiar (and in some instances useless) laws enacted by some States. The gradual enlightenment of the public on this subject has borne good fruit, however, and most of the present State laws are founded on substantial facts instead of theories. Prof. Francis H. Herrick has been one of the most prominent of the investigators, and his summary of the present knowledge on this subject is quoted below from the Fish Commission Bulletin for 1897:

(1) The fishery is declining, and this decline is due to the persistence with which it has been conducted during the last twenty five years. There is no evidence that the animal is being driven to the wall by any new or unusual disturbance of the forces of nature.

(2) The lobster is migratory only to the extent of moving to and from the shore, and is, therefore, practically a sedentary animal. Its movements are governed chiefly by the abundance of food and the temperature of the water.

(3) The female may be impregnated or provided with a supply of sperm for future use by the male at any time, and the sperm, which is deposited in an external pouch or sperm receptacle, has remarkable vitality. Copulation occurs commonly in spring, and the eggs are fertilized outside the body.

(4) Female lobsters become sexually mature when from 8 to 12 inches long. The majority of all lobsters 10 1/2 inches long are mature. It is rare to find a female less than 8 inches long which has spawned or one over 12 inches in length which has never borne eggs.

(5) The spawning interval is a biennial one, two years elapsing between each period of egg laying.

(6) The spawning period for the majority of lobsters is July and August. A few lay eggs at other seasons of the year in the fall, winter, and probably in the spring.

(7) The period of spawning lasts about six weeks, and fluctuates slightly from year to year. The individual variation in the time of extrusion of ova is explained by the long period during which the eggs attain the limits of growth. Anything which affects the vital condition of the female during this period of two years may affect the time of spawning.

(8) The spawning period in the middle and eastern districts of Maine is two weeks later than in Vineyard Sound, Massachusetts. In 1893 71 per cent of eggs examined from the coast of Maine were extruded in the first half of August.

(9) The number of eggs laid varies with the size of the animal. The law of production may be arithmetically expressed as follows: The number of eggs produced at each reproductive period varies in a geometrical series, while the length of lobsters producing these eggs varies in an arithmetical series... Continue reading book >>

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