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 http://www.emolt.org.
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:
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 "emolt.org" 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.