Restoration and compensation of the Rhode Island lobster fishery following the North Cape oil spill

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



At 0300 on January 36, 1996, the tug Scandia and barge North Cape encountered very heavy weather and grounded on Nebraska Shoals off the south coast of Rhode Island, releasing approximately 20,000 barrels (2,700 tons) of No. 2 fuel oil (home heating oil) bound for Providence. High surf dispersed the cargo into the water column. Acute toxicity and/or narcosis caused an estimated 3 million lobsters to strand on the beach. Subsequent field measurements estimated that approximately 9 million lobsters of all size classes were lost. The population was projected to naturally recover by approximately 2001. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) requires compensation for loss of the resource pending recovery. The responsible party (RP) proposed and negotiated a restocking restoration plan with the designated state and federal natural resource trustees. The program involved purchasing adult female lobsters from wholesalers and marking them prior to returning them to the environment. Regulations were passed in the region making it illegal to sell or possess marked female lobsters. The mark (a v-notch in the tail) has been found to last through a minimum of tw'o reproductive cycles/molts (4 years). Because of a high fisheries exploitation rate (F = 0.75-0.95), females currently are harvested at the onset of sexual maturity. Fecundity of females increases dramatically in a nonlinear relationship with size. Therefore, the larval supply benefits of exclusion of reproductive females from fishing mortality are substantial. As the end result of negotiations regarding the appropriate values for multiple life history and population determinate factors, the RP agreed to purchase, mark, and release 1.248 million healthy female lobsters to Block Island Sound. The RP commenced field operations in 2000 and is required to complete work by 2005. The slate of Rhode Island and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will monitor the program. Up to 20% of the released animals will be tagged for research and monitoring purposes. This program should provide the collateral benefit of increasing the collective understanding of lobster, fisheries, biology, and behavior for use in future resource management.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

2005 International Oil Spill Conference, IOSC 2005

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