Thousands of tiny lobsters set free


STONINGTON (AP) – Thousands of tiny 2-week-old lobsters were released into Maine waters during the weekend as part of an ongoing effort to keep the state’s lobster populations strong.

Working with local lobstermen, staff from a Stonington lobster hatchery released an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 of the half-inch-long lobsters at two sites off of Vinalhaven on Sunday. Another 17,000 juvenile lobsters were released in June.

This is the second year the Zone C Lobster Hatchery has released young lobsters in Penobscot Bay waters, said hatchery director Ted Ames.

Depending on how many egg-bearing female lobsters the hatchery can acquire, the process could continue into October with the potential of releasing a total of 100,000 more tiny lobsters, he said.

The aim of the project is to provide young lobsters for traditionally good lobster fisheries that for whatever reason have become depleted.

“The idea is to place lobsters in good locations to rebuild the populations that have disappeared,” Ames said.

Hatchery staff also plan to release lobsters that have been raised in the hatchery for up to five weeks, rather than just two weeks, in hopes of being able to track the shellfish better. The older lobsters are more likely to settle immediately on the ocean bottom, making it easier to determine how many survive to adulthood.

“This is a critical step for the work we are doing to determine whether hatcheries can successfully enhance the fishery,” Ames said.

The hatchery was created and built two years ago by lobstermen in Zone C, a management area that covers portions of Hancock and Knox counties, with staffing and support from the Penobscot East Resource Center, a Stonington-based nonprofit.