Summer 2003 eMOLT update ...   here come the drifters

The next phase of the  "Environmental Monitors on Lobster Traps"  project  (eMOLT) involves lobstermen deploying and reporting drifters in the Maine Coastal Current and Mass Bay.   A pilot study (to test the operation) has been underway this past month (June 2003).  Nineteen units were released  off the Isle of Haut (Downeast Maine) on the 1st of June and,  at the time of this writing,  are  heading towards Mass Bay  (see figure). The purpose of this experiment is to assess the logistics and feasibility of  measuring surface drift patterns with the help of local lobstermen.   The results of this preliminary deployment will be used to design and propose a much larger scale deployment  to take place during the Summer of 2004.  The primary purpose of the project, in general, is to provide observations necessary for  initializing and validating numerical  circulation models. A suite of these models are  currently under-development at various state, federal, and academic labs.  The combination of temperature, salinity, and current-velocity data is needed to test and evaluate simulations.  To learn more about the eMOLT project, visit

The purpose of this article, therefore, is to notify all lobstermen working in southern Maine and Massachusetts next month (July 2003).  Given a normal weather pattern, it is expected that at least some of the drifters will be advected along the coast into Mass Bay during the month of July and, in  the absence of any major wind events, be carried along to arrive either in Cape Cod Bay or off Provincetown sometime in August.  As we all know however, there is no such thing as "normal weather patterns" these days, so the units may end up in very different places.  In fact, one of the main objectives is to document natural forces that may govern variability in the distribution of settled lobster larvae.

What is the protocol to follow if a lobstermen sights one of these units shown in the picture below?   If the instrument is found washed up on the rocks, we ask that you take the unit home (if possible) and  call us.  We will have someone pick it up.   If the instrument is found drifting free,  we ask that you let it be and refer to the following protocol:If you happen to be close enough to one, you should be able to read an ID# associated with each  unit without needing to pull the unit out of the water.   Note that only the set of  four orange spheres and a center pole (possibly a colored flag) will be visible on the surface.  In a few cases the units will have antennae as they will be fitted with satellite link/electronics but in most cases the unit is constructed of PVC, styrofoam, cloth, and fiberglass rods.   After making note of the ID# and  position (loran or lat/lons), lobstermen are ask to report the fix (date, time, id, and position).   As of this writing,  there are four different options for reporting a fix:

  1. call R/V Oceanus which, for the first week of June 2003 anyways, should be in  the area on  marine band radio
  2. call 508-495-2211 and leave a voice message
  3. email
  4. keep paper log and mail to: Jim Manning,  166 Water St, NEFSC/NOAA, Woods Hole, Ma 02543
We would like to thank lobstermen Bob Baines, Nick Sprague, Anson Norton, Jeremy Van Dyne, John Melquist,  Jeff Donnell, Tim Vergin,  Mike Parenteau,  Rich Olson, Peter Flanigan, Steve Clark, Alfred Osgood, and Mattie Thomson who reported sightings the last few weeks off the coast of Maine.

Next summer we are planning to implement an automated toll-free "interactive voice response" protocol where lobstermen (and other boaters) will be able to report sightings via their phone key pads.  The fixes are dumped directly to a database.  Whatever the method used to report fixes, one may optionally provide their contact information if they would like to be sent  the history of a particular drifters path and the project in general..  Alternatively, one may find the full story at the above-mentioned "" site.    To get a few fixes per week per drifter will satisfy the scientific objectives and we believe, given our experience thus far, with enough outreach activity,  this WILL be possible.

Drifters are be coded so that an  individual sighting it should be able to determine its origin. Each drifter  typically has  a 5-digit ID#  "ABCDE"  etched into the PVC,  painted on the flag, and written on the floatation as follows:

We appreciate your effort in cooperating with us in this pilot study and hope that those of you who read this can pass the word along to other lobstermen in your area.  The eMOLT project is an industry-based collaborative/scientific endeavor involving all the the major  lobstermen associations such as MeLA,  MassLA, AOLA, & DELA for the last three years and,  depending partially on the success of  this summer's pilot study, will be funded in the future.  So, while there is no direct compensation to participating lobstermen,  the industry benefits from your efforts.

For further information contact:

Return to main eMOLT page

Return to main Oceanography Page

Link disclaimer | Email webmaster | Privacy policy |     File Modified Jun 21, 2006