Lobstermen’s efforts to mark egg-bearing female lobsters with a V-notch on their tail have been on the decline since 2008, which could put pressure on the future health of the state’s most lucrative fishery, state officials said.
If a female lobster is caught while carrying eggs, a V-notch tool or knife is used to remove a very small, triangular portion of the tail flipper. That lobster is then returned to the water. V-notching began in Maine in 1917 and has been mandatory since 2002, but the practice is very difficult to enforce, officials said.
By throwing back the V-notched female lobsters, it allows them to grow larger and reproduce in future years. A V-notch lasts for about two molts or roughly two to three years – depending on the size of the cut – and acts as a signal for the next harvester that catches the lobster that it should be returned to the water to keep the reproductive cycle going, according to Kathleen Reardon, lobster scientist for Maine’s Department of Marine Resources.
“It creates a buffer for sustainability for the population,” Reardon said. “Because of V-notching, we’re protecting the reproduction cycle. It’s the only mechanism to return a legal sized lobster back to the water to reproduce.”