By Justin Swanson, Special to the Independent
Traps pulled from the ocean and hoisted aboard a large lobster boat off Main Beach last week prompted a flurry of calls to the city’s lifeguards about potential violations of new regulations banning fishing along most of Laguna Beach’s coastline.
The public is very much aware of the protections for the crustacean population, reflected in the large number of calls by onlookers who spotted activity offshore, said Marine Safety Department Chief Kevin Snow. But rather than scofflaws, Snow made the assurance that the lobster hunters are part of a project to study behavioral patterns of lobsters, sanctioned and commissioned by the state Department of Fish and Game. Similar projects will soon follow, he said.
The team, headed up by Rodger Healy, a fisherman and president of the California Lobster Trap and Fisherman Association, worked in conjunction with game regulators to catch and release lobsters with the specific purpose of tagging them for further study in order to understand the effect of the marine preserve, which took affect Jan. 1.
The study began last September in a trial run before the ban on fishing under the state’s Marine Life Protection Act was imposed locally.
Healy categorizes the project in two-tiers; establishing baseline records and then deducing behavior, population density, reproductivity, growth rate, and local movements.
A veteran lobster fisherman for over 20 years, Healy is already intrigued by the lobsters’ mobility, moving in and away from the coast between the protected and non-protected areas. He predicts that to begin to understand particulars of lobster behavior will require a third of the three-year study.
Local resident Justin Swanson is an Indy intern.