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Lobsters And People

Lobsters are commonly captured as a food for humans, and their "fishery" is economically important in places where these crustaceans are abundant. For example, lobsters caught in the waters off New England or eastern Canada are more likely to be eaten in an expensive restaurant in New York, London, Paris, or Hong Kong, than in a local restaurant. Lobsters are so valuable that they are routinely shipped by air freight across the world to wealthy markets—entire jets may be chartered at certain times of the year, for example, around Christmas, when there is great demand for these animals in France and elsewhere in western Europe.

Lobsters are most commonly caught using traps of various sorts. In general, the traps are baited with a piece of fish, and there are several entrance holes through which hungry lobsters can enter the trap, but cannot exit. Alternatively, lobsters are sometimes caught by scuba divers, or by snorkeling in shallow, warm waters.

It is quite easy to over-harvest lobsters, however, resulting in the degradation of the resource, and a loss of economic opportunity. Fortunately, systems have been developed to limit the rate of harvesting lobster populations, so that harvests can be sustained over the longer term. These systems require the monitoring of stock sizes, and setting and implementing appropriate catch limits by regulating the number of traps and the sizes of animals that can be taken.

Recent research has also been targeted to working out systems by which lobsters can be cultivated. Lobster "ranching" would likely involve capturing pregnant females and growing their young offspring in captivity, to be harvested when they reach a marketable size.

Domestication of lobsters is more complex, and would involve keeping carefully selected breeding stock, and periodically spawning these mature animals to produce progeny that could be reared under conditions optimized for their growth. Eventually, controlled breeding could lead to the development of breeding stock that was genetically optimized for docility, growth rate, ease of spawning, resistance to disease, and other desirable traits.

So far, however, cultivation systems for lobsters are not well developed, and virtually all harvesting is done from wild stocks of these animals.



Bliss, D.E. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs. Washington, DC: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Herrick, F.H. Natural History of the American Lobster. Bulletin of the Bureau of Fisheries, 29 (1909): 148-408.

Schram, D.F. The Crustacea. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Waddy, S.L., and D.E. Aiken. Cold-Water Aquaculture in Canada. Edited by A.D. Boghen Moncton, New Brunswick: Institute for Research on Regional Development, 1995.

Bill Freedman


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Continental shelf

—A relatively shallow, gently sloping, submarine area at the edges of continents and large islands, extending from the shoreline to the continental slope.


—This refers to the capturing of animals faster than they are able to regenerate their populations by breeding, the population declines possibly to the point of extinction in severe cases. Potentially, economically important animal populations can be utilized as a renewable natural resource. However, if they are over-harvested, they are being mined, and managed as if they were a non-renewable resource.


—Refers to an animal that lives suspended or swimming in the water column. Recently hatched lobsters are planktonic.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Linear expansivity to Macrocosm and microcosmLobsters - Biology And Ecology Of Lobsters, Lobster Reproduction, Species Of Lobsters, Lobsters And People