Case Study: Portland Harbor, ME
Special Appeal to Save Juvenile Lobsters in Portland Harbor (ME)
Local lobstermen expressed concern that the dredging project moving forward in Portland Harbor would disrupt lobster habitat. To evaluate this theory, immediate research was necessary. The Chair of the Board for the Casco Bay Estuary Project, a City Manager, wrote special appeal letters to harborfront property owners, businesses, and the cities of Portland and South Portland asking for financial support for research to address lobstermen's concerns and keep the harbor dredging project on schedule. In addition, the director of the Casco Bay Estuary Project requested support from the Maine Department of Transportation. Within three weeks, the Casco Bay Estuary Project was able to raise $56,000 to conduct the lobster research and a relocation effort.
Prior to the dredging of Portland Harbor, the Casco Bay Estuary Project used the money from this special appeal to study lobster habitat using underwater video surveys of the proposed dredge areas. Lobsters were thought to live near the shore in warm weather and move to deep-water burrows offshore in the winter. Therefore, most stakeholders believed that a winter dredging operation would have only a minimal impact on lobster populations. The videos revealed that the harbor provides winter habitat for a significant population of juvenile lobsters that burrow in the Portland harbor mud. Consultants then developed a dredging mitigation plan that included an innovative lobster relocation effort. Before dredging began, a coalition of lobstermen, state regulators, and staff and volunteers from the Casco Bay Estuary Project and Friends of Casco Bay moved 34,012 small lobsters from the dredge area. This group also tagged 4,000 lobsters to help evaluate the project's success.
For more information on the Casco Bay Estuary Program, please visit the Casco Bay Web site (www.cascobay.usm.maine.edu).