Between Nov. 15, 2002, and January 2003, the Army Corps of Engineers will be disposing of dredge spoils at the Rockland Disposal Site about halfway between Rockland and Vinalhaven. Silt and clay hauled from Camden and Belfast Harbor will be released at the site about three miles northeast of the Rockland Break-water in some 200 feet of water.

The location and timing of this project have raised concerns among harvesters who note that the area is prime lobster ground, and who fear that the disposal may disrupt the seasonal migration of lobster to deeper water.

The Corps of Engineers has contracted with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences to assess the impact of dredge material disposal on lobsters in the area. Using trap-based tagging methods, Dr. Rick Wahle of Bigelow Laboratory and a research team will monitor lobster movement near the disposal site before and during the period of disposal.

Wahle’s team will apply a trap-based mark-recapture method developed over the past two summers with support from Maine Sea Grant and in collaboration with the Island Institute and Vinalhaven lobstermen.

The researchers will construct acoustic seabed maps before and after disposal to measure the “footprint” of the disposed material. Traps modified to retain even sublegal lobsters will be set in a grid pattern over the disposal area. Lobsters collected in the traps from Nov. 1 through December will be tagged, measured, and released. The tags will be strapped around both “knuckles” just behind the claw. Each tag bears an identification number and phone number.

Recaptured individuals will be recorded within the study area. To track movement outside the study area, it is requested that lobstermen who catch a tagged lobster call in the tag number and location of capture.

To call in a tagged lobster or for more information on the project, call Rick Wahle’s lab at 207-633-9612 or email

Kerrie O’Donnell is an Island Institute Fellow on Vinalhaven.