G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

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DECREASE IN SIZE. Lobsters occur of all sizes up to about forty pounds weight, but the
average size of all Lobsters now caught for market is probably not above two pounds weight.
It is a well-attested fact that the average size, as well as the abundance of Lobsters, has steadily
decreased from year to year during the past twenty years, and the markets are now supplied with
a much smaller breed, so to speak, than formerly. Not that Lobsters grow less rapidly at the
prevent time than in previous years, or have become in any way dwarfed in size, but the avaricious
lishing which has been constantly carried on along almost the entire extent of their range has
caught up nearly all the larger individuals and reduced the bulk of those remaining, suitable for
market, to near the minimum prescribed by law, and there they will probably remain. Were the
spawning Lobsters carefully protected, and due respect paid to the laws limiting the size of
those taken for food, we might expect to find about as many Lobsters now as in any past time,
though they might average smaller in size; but such, unfortunately, is not the case.

Just what the decrease in average size has been we have not sufficient data to determine;
but it has occurred so recently and has been so marked that no one who is familiar with the facts
can refuse to acknowledge it. A New Haven correspondent states that the average length of the
Lobsters sold in the markets there to-day is about ten and one-half inches and the average
weight about two pounds, against an average length of about thirteen inches and an average
weight of about three and one-half pounds twenty years ago. A Boston correspondent, who has
spent much time in studying the lobster question from a practical standpoint, writes that
they decreased rapidly until the law was enacted regulating the size of those brought to
market, the enforcement of which arrested the apparent decrease. I would say here that the
effect of a law regulating the size of those saved for food is, after a time, to bring a very large
majority of those offered for sale to about the legal limits, and an improvement can only be
looked for by increasing the limit from time to time."

AVERAGE SIZE AT PRESENT. From many fishermen and lobster-dealers along the entire
Ne\\ England coast we have solicited information as to the average size of Lobsters taken by



784 NATUKAL HISTORY OP AQUATIC ANIMALS.

them in their traps and sold as food, or received at the markets. The replies were numerous,
and in many cases undoubtedly reliable. In four of the principal larger markets the average
Bizes were stated to be as follows, the length given being exclusive of the claws :

Inchel.

Portland, Maine - - 10 J

Boston, Massachusetts

New Haven, Connecticut 10}

New York City - 10J-15

The larger Lobsters received at New York probably came from Eastern Maine, and the
smaller ones from Southern New England.

According to the fishermen, the average size of Lobsters taken upon certain sections of the
New England States runs about as follows, the wide range in the figures given in some cases
resulting from the combining of data from different localities :

Inches.

Coast of Maine, from Eastport to Portland - 8-15

New Hampshire

Vicinity of Boston - - - 10-13

Vineyard Sound to New London, Connecticut 8-12

Western Connecticut - - - 8-10}

The average size is said to be somewhat greater in Eastern than in Western Maine, but even
at the east the smaller sizes are taken to sell to the canneries. On the coast of Nova Scotia
Lobsters, at present, run larger than on the coast of Maine. According to Capt. N. E. Atwood,
small Lobsters are seldom seen at Provincetown, or at least were seldom taken there when the
lobster fishery was extensively carried on at that place. In an entire smack load there would
not be half a dozen individuals weighing under two pounds. The average size of Lobsters
taken in the traps does not appear to remain the same at any one place throughout the year. In
many places they are said to run largest during the summer, or from June until the latter part
of August. This may not hold good, however, for all localities. About Vineyard Sound, Massa-
chusetts, Lobsters average largest in June, and those taken at that time are called " June " or
"Sand" Lobsters. They are lighter colored and have thinner shells than those caught the
remainder of the year. School Lobsters average about the same in size in the same school, but
the different schools may differ more or less from one another in the average size of the Lobsters
composing them, and some at times consist mostly of one sex and others of the opposite sex.

LARGE LOBSTERS. The male Lobsters are said, as a rule, to attain the largest size, and in
most localities they average larger than the females. In some few places, however, we are
informed that the females average largest, and where this occurs it may possibly result from
the greater protection accorded the latter sex. A correspondent at Provincetown, Massachu-
setts, estimates that the larger females attain there a length of about fifteen to sixteen inches,
and the larger males about eighteen to twenty -two inches. Although large Lobsters have been
mostly exterminated from our coast, we still occasionally hear of the capture of individuals of
unusual size. From fishermen we have obtained information regarding three monster individuals,
weighing respectively thirty-five, thirty-eight, and forty pounds each, but no notice as to the
year when they were taken. Lobsters of over forty pounds weight have been recorded, but we
are inclined to look upon these giants with some distrust, as we cannot ascertain that any of them
were actually weighed. From more reliable sources we learn that sixteen to twenty-five pound
Lobsters, although by no means common, have been, and still are, occasionally found. They do
not seem to have been confined to any one part of the coast, as they are recorded all the way
fna E astp ort, Maine, to New Jersey.



COLOR OF THE LOBSTER. 785

Much of the information regarding large Lobsters was obtained from lobster-dealers, who
liaM-liad tin-in tor sale in tlirir tnaikHs. A dealer lit New lla\i-n -tate> that I unit \ \caisa-o
twelve to sixteen pound Lobsters were common, but during the past ten years a Lobster weighing
ti-ti pounds has been mrely seen. A Huston dealer writes that during tin- past season (KSSO) he
has received and sold several Lobsters weighing from twelve to fifteen pounds each. On the
Nova Scotia coast, ten-pound Lobsters are said to be common now. The dimensions of these
ln-av\ individuals are seldom given. A specimen taken at Booth bay, Maine, and said to weigh
l>etwcen thirty and forty pounds, had such large claws that the meat from one of them was equal
to that of an entire ordinary-sized Lobster. Another specimen, weighing thirty-five pounds, had
a length of four feet. Seventeen to twenty-four pound Lobsters are stated to measure from three
to three and one-half feet long, and ten-pounders from twenty to twenty-four inches. A nineteen-
pound Lobster, shipped from Eastport, in 1875, measured three feet five inches in length, the
claws being eighteen inches long and eight inches across.

LARGE LOBSTERS ON THE COAST OF ENGLAND. Although the European Lobster never
attains the extreme size of the American, still large individuals are occasionally met with. Mr.
Frank Buckland makes the following records of large Lobsters observed on the coast of the
British Islands: " The deeper the water and the farther from the shore, the larger are the Lobsters.
The Skye and the Orkney Lobsters are probably the largest in the British Islands. At St.
Mawe's we heard of two Lobsters, one ten pounds and the other nine and three-fourths pounds.
and at Durgan and Sennen of one of thirteen pounds. A large Lobster was caught in a large
earthenware pot at Gosport in 1870; he weighed eight pounds ten ounces. In May, 1875, a
Lobster, weight twelve pounds, was found at Saint's Bay, Guernsey." Another specimen caught
at Hamble, near Southampton, was said to have weighed fourteen pounds.

COLOR. The color of the Lobster is so varied as to almost defy accurate description, even
in single individuals. It may be described in a general way as consisting of a groundwork of
yellow or yellowish-red, covered with spots or mottlings of green, or more rarely blue. The
niottlings are most numerous and dense upon the back, while on the sides of the carapax and
lower surfaces of the claws the yellow generally predominates. Along the lower edge of the
carapax, on each side, there is quite a broad marginal band of blue or bluish coloration, which
also extends a short distance up the posterior margin of the carapax. Just above this band,
winch has a distinctly defined edge, the yellow (ranging in intensity from a light yellow to a deep
orange) begins, and may be nearly plain for quite a breadth, or become at once covered with
roundish spots of dark green or greenish or brownish olive, which increase in size and become
more closely placed toward the dorsal surface, where they overlap to such an extent that the
yellow seldom shows through. This combination frequently produces a very dark coloration on
the back, which sometimes appears as a greenish-black. Often the entire carapax and abdomen
assume a very dark shade over nearly all the sides as well as back. Sometimes the spots are
fewer in number than ordinary and stand apart from one another, even on the back, producing
the so-called " Spotted Lobsters." The green color is often replaced by different shades of blue.
Occasionally a reddish coloration will predominate over the entire carapax. The rostrum is olive
green, the spines it bears being of a deep, rich red. The abdomen corresponds in markings with
the carapax. The depressed line running along the center of the back of the carapax is distinctly
marked, being generally dark green. The tail-flaps are bordered along their posterior margins by
a band of dark olive brown.

The npper surface of the big claws has a decidedly reddish or orange cast, the color deep-
ening towards the ends, which are a very deep red, fading out to a whitish color just at the tips.
.50 F



786 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

Over this groundwork the outer margin of the claw has a broad banding of dark olive brown or
black, and numerous large spots of the same color cover more or less of the remaining surface.
The under sides of the large claws are almost always an orange of variable intensity, the terminal
joints being more intense than the inner ones, which are more or less marked with green or blue.
The other legs are much lighter below than the claws, with green or blue markings, especially
above and at the ends of the joints. The tips end in deep orange red, while the bunches of hairs
which ornament them and other parts of the body are almost a ruby red, when the specimen has
just been taken from the water. The soft skin covering the under surface of the abdomen, and
the swimmerets are of a faint pinkish color, due to the presence of multitudes of very minute red
spots.

These color variations of Lobsters probably depend, to a certain extent, upon the character
or color of the bottom inhabited by them, but some of the varieties cannot be accounted for in
that manner. The character of their food may also have some influence in the matter. Lobsters
obtained from rocky bottoms more or less covered with sea weeds, and from dark grassy bottoms,
are said to be generally much darker in color than those from sandy bottoms, and also to average
shorter in proportion to their weight. Lobsters from open sandy bottoms are not only lighter in
color, but also appear to be, usually, brighter. We have several recorded instances of red Lobsters
from sandy bottoms, some of the specimens examined having been nearly as red as Lobsters
ordinarily are after boiling. Nearly white Lobsters also occur occasionally in similar situations.
One of the most curious color varieties we ever saw had numerous round, bright yellow spots,
ranging in size from very small to about half an inch in diameter, scattered without order over
the entire body. It is well known to all consumers of Lobsters that the shell of these animals
quickly changes to a nearly uniform bright-red color on boiling.

DISTRIBUTION GEOGRAP. ICAL RANGE. The American Lobster ranges along the Atlantic
coast from Delaware to Labrador, and has even been found as far south as the northeastern corner
of Virginia. A correspondent at Johusontown, Virginia, informs us that he has seen two or three
stragglers taken in that neighborhood, and he believes them to have wandered naturally to that
far southern limit, as he cannot account for their being carried there through the agency of man.
The vicinity of the Delaware breakwater can be regarded with greater certainty as their southern
limit, for there they occur in moderate abundance, and are occasionally fished for with lobster-
pots. They are also sometimes taken on the fishing banks off Cape Henlopen and Cape May.
The stonework of the Delaware breakwater seems, however, to form quite an attractive place for
them at present, though previous to its construction they may not have existed there at all. They
may be caught in the immediate vicinity of the breakwater in lobster-pots, and are also incidentally
taken in gill-nets and on hand-lines, but the fishery is not carried on regularly, mainly on account
of their scarcity, and partly from the fact that the pots are liable to be disturbed by the anchors
of vessels seeking the protection of the breakwater. Mr. Burbage, of Ocean View, Delaware,
states that he has occasionally seen small Lobsters in the surf along the beack, near Indian River
Inlet.

Along the New Jersey coast, Lobsters have been recorded from a few places, but are no
where very abundant. A fisherman of long experience about Cape May writes that he has never
seen Lobsters in that region. Off Monmouth County they occur near to and south of Nave-
sink. At Long Branch and Atlantic City small amounts are taken annually for local consump-
tion and for shipment to New York and Philadelphia. Lobsters are more plentiful on a fishing
ledge of rocks lying a short distance off Long Branch, and those found near the shore are
supposed to be summer visitants from this locality. Several instances of large Lobsters are



IMSTKir.lTION OK Till: UHISTKK.

reeordod from this region two in particular from off Atlantic (Mty, weighing twenty and lwnit\
one pounds ouch.

Alter passing tin- Now Jersey coast, we soon come to the region where Lobsters are more
continuously abundant. At one time they were common in New York Bay, but the establishment
then- of large factories, which jtollute the waters, has almost exterminated them and dwarfed the
si/o of those remaining. Throughout Loiig Island Sound, Lobsters are moderately abundant,
and are fished for at several localities. They become much more plentiful in the neighborhood
of Fisher's Island, Block Island, Montauk Point, the Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard,
and Neman's Land, all of which regions furnish a very important summer fishery. Nearly all
favorable localities on the Massachusetts coast abound in Lobsters, though overfishing has
nearly depleted some sections, as at Provincetown. New Hampshire supports a limited lobster
fisher \ .

The Maine coast excels all others of the States in the abundance of Lobsters, whicii are more
or less uniformly distributed from Portland to Eastport, some localities, however, being more
favorable to their existence than others. The fishery for this State is much greater than for all
the other States combined, Massachusetts ranking next.

The Provincial coast, or at least the Nova Scotian part of it, is said to be more prolific in
Lobsters than Maine, though the fishery there is not of as long stauding. We have little data as
to the relative abundance of Lobsters on the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts, but they are
apparently less common than to the south.

BATHYMETRICAL RANGE. The Lobster ranges in depth from about low-water mark to at
least eighty fathoms, and the fishery is regularly carried on in some localities in depths of fifty to
sixty fathoms, especially during the winter. At Eastport and elsewhere on the Maine coast,
in the summer, they are occasionally left upon the shore by the receding tide, either concealed
under stones and seaweeds or partly buried in the sand. During the same season they may
also be frequently seen about the wharves of some of the Maine sea-coast towns, attracted
there by the refuse thrown over from the canneries. Twenty to thirty years ago, or before
the fishery had made much advancement, Lobsters were of much more common occurrence
in the littoral zone, and were often gaffed from the shore by the early fishermen. Even to-day,
in some places, the pots are set in such shallow water that they are exposed at low tide.
Several accounts of this shore fishery have been reserved for the industrial portion of the
'present report.

As explained elsewhere, Lobsters move towards the shore in summer, and away from it, or
into deeper water, on the approach of cold weather. During the principal fishing season, which
includes the warmer half of the year, they are most abundant in depths of a very few to about
fifteen or twenty fathoms, and it is within these depths that the pots are mainly set.

OFF-SHOEE RANGE. Lobsters have been recorded from the fishing banks off Uova Scotia,
from the fishing banks and ledges of the Gulf of Maine, such as Jeffrey's Ledge and Gashe's
Ledge, and from other more southern off-shore banks. They have also been taken from the
stomachs of cod caught on George's Banks. There is, however, no off-shore lobster fishery.

FRESH AND BRACKISH WATER. Lobsters will not live in fresh or brackish water, although
it is an unsettled question as to whether a slight admixture of fresh water is harmful to them or
not. They are caught at the mouths of large rivers where the water is decidedly biaeki.sh on top,
but when placed in surface cars at the same localities they are said to qniekh perish, indicating
that the water must bo much more salt at the bottom.

CHARACTER OF THE BOTTOM. Lobsters prefer rocky, gravelly, and sandy bottoms, and,



788 NATURAL HISTORY OP AQUATIC ANIMALS.

in shoal waters, especially those which are more or less covered with growths of the larger
seaweeds. Vegetation is not, however, essential to their well-being, for they live on the barren
sands, as at Provincetown, Cape Cod, and on rocky, stony, and hard bottoms, wherever they
can find food. At the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, they are said to occasionally occur on the
mud, and this fact is recorded of them in other localities. On rocky bottoms they remain
more or less concealed under and among the rocks and stones, watching for their prey. In
the Bay of Fundy and elsewhere they are often seen lurking under stones at low water,
and about the wharves. The lobster-pots are generally set upon gravelly and sandy bottoms.
In many localities the young, under eight or ten inches long, are often abundant in shallow
coves or bays, which are more or less filled up with kelp and other large seaweeds. In such
places as these they have been commonly taken in the beam trawl used by the United States
Fish Commission for bottom fish, in Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, and Vineyard
Sound. One cause assigned for the great decrease in the abundance of Lobsters in Plymouth
Bay, Massachusetts, is the raking over of the rocky bottom for Irish moss, which industry is
carried on to a very great extent, thereby uncovering and destroying the young and damaging
their grounds.

MIGRATIONS. The Lobsters inhabiting the shoaler grounds in summer move into deeper
water, as a rule, on the approach of cold weather, and return again in the spring. In some
localities, however, a few Lobsters are said to remain in moderately shoal water the entire year,
especially toward the south. But all Lobsters do not leave their deeper abiding places in summer,
for they appear to occur in greater or less abundance in all depths at all seasons. The extent of
the fall migrations is not very great, but the Lobsters move off beyond the influence of the extreme
cold into slightly deeper water, generally not far away, where the temperature remains milder
and more uniform. Those who fish for Lobsters in the winter have, therefore, to set their pots at
a greater distance from land than in the summer, but the winter fishery is of slight importance
compared with the summer.

Lobsters are said to approach the shores of Nova Scotia in May and to recede from them in
November, their winter quarters being in depths of ten to forty-five fathoms. In the summer
they are abundant close to shore. At the month of the Bay of Fundy they generally come into
shoal water in April, and move off again in October or November. During the summer
months they abound under the shelter of overhanging rocks and among the kelp near shore.
About five or six weeks are taken tip by these migrations. They do not move in a body, but
approach and recede gradually, as the temperature of the water changes. Throughout the coast
of Maine the spring and fall migrations are about the same, but vary more or less according to
the character and temperature of the different seasons. In the summer, they enter the numerous
buys and indentations of the coast line, which they leave again in the fall. They leave the
shallow waters of the coast of New Hampshire in December or November, and can be caught
during the entire winter in depths of twenty fathoms. Boston Harbor has always been famous
as a fishing ground for Lobsters, but in the fall it is completely deserted by these crustaceans,
which repair to the deeper waters of Massachusetts Bay, where a winter fishery can be carried
on. A sudden cold spell is said to send them off rapidly, and they have been known to entirely
disappear from shoal water in the course of a day or two. Lobster fishing ceases at Province-
town, Cape Cod, the latter part of September, as the Lobsters become scarce after that time. In
Vineyard Sound the fall migrations extend into the deeper holes not far distant from the summer
grounds, but some individuals remain in comparatively shallow water the entire year. The same
is true of Long Island Sound, where Lobsters do not move far from their summer haunts, but



MALE AND FEMALE LOBSTERS. 789



merely seek the protection of deeper water, wliriwn- they ean liml it. Tin- season generally l
lYom April to October. Off New Haven, Coiincrtiriit, Lobsters are occasionally taken in winter,
on the deeper oyster banks, while dredging for oysters.

SCHOOLING. Although Lobsters do not appear to school in the same manner as some
lishes, still they often congregate in larger or smaller moving bodies, which travel from place
to place, as though in search of food. On the central and southern New England coasts,
especially about Martha's Vineyard and Neman's Laud, two kinds of Lobsters are recognized
by most fishermen "School Lobsters," and "Rock Lobsters" or "Ground holders." The latter
are said to remain more or less continuously in one place during the entire fishing season, while
the former are migratory and unceitain in their movements. These two kinds of Lobsters are
also stated to differ more or less from one another in appearance, especially as regards color, and
the Rock Lobsters are supposed to average heavier than the School Lobsters, when of the same
lengths. To what extent this habit of schooling takes place we have had no means of ascertain-
ing, but for a short period during the spring and fall migrations it is probably more common
than at other times. During the regular summer movements, the larger or stronger Lobsters
aie said to lead the schools, and the maimed or crippled ones to straggle on behind. The
schools are apparently made up more or less of Lobsters of uniform size, as the fishermen will
often catch the same sized Lobsters in their traps for a certain period, after which this size dis-
appears and another takes its place. These changes are said to occur suddenly, and during
some years quite frequently.

The strongest proof of the schooling of Lobsters is the fact that they will suddenly appear
in great numbers in a region where none have been caught for several days, and as suddenly
disappear therefrom without apparent cause. It is possible that the habit of schooling arises
solely from the necessity of migrating, and that, while they ordinarily live more or less scattered
over good feeding bottoms, yet when their common feeding ground becomes exhausted, or the



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 130 of 146)