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2010 Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium focuses on lobster shell disease.

Proposals selected: In response to a request for research proposals issued May 17, 2006, the New England Lobster Research Initiative received 25 proposals, which were given extensive external scientific peer review, with guidance on final funding decisions made by an external, ad hoc scientific review panel. Nine research proposals, listed below, and two monitoring proposals received funding for a total of $2.3 million. Press release. For a detailed list, click here. For a description of each of the proposals, click here. To view high-res photos of healthy and shell-diseased lobsters, click here.

  1. Environmental stress and susceptibility to shell disease – An assessment of structural deficiencies in shell formation at increased temperatures.
  2. Analysis of environmental contaminants in shell diseased versus non-shell diseased lobsters.
  3. A possible role of alkylphenols in lobster epizootic shell disease.
  4. Microbiology of shell disease: environmental sources and diversity.
  5. Characterization of the exoskeletal microbial communities and host immune responses associated with epizootic shell disease in lobsters.
  6. Etiological and mortality studies into epizootic shell disease of the American lobster.
  7. A molecular approach to understanding lobster shell disease.
  8. Mineralization of the lobster exoskeleton as a target of shell disease.
  9. The spread of lobster shell disease: genetic and social barriers.

In addition to these research projects, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) will conduct ventless trap monitoring.  Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts are also receiving funds for lobster sea sampling monitoring.

About lobster shell disease
Researchers in the Northeast first noticed shell disease in the 1980s. At that time, the disease appeared as little black spots on lobsters' shells. But in the past several years, shells have sometimes become fully infected, with the worst cases rotting the shells entirely. This new disease is called epizootic shell disease.

Research on lobster health is paramount to understanding the causes and consequences of shell disease and other diseases affecting the lobster stocks. Several lobster diseases have been discovered that have occurred concurrently with the outbreak of the lobster epizootic shell disease in southern New England.

About the New England Lobster Research Initiative
Congress has appropriated $3 million to establish a cooperative research program—the New England Lobster Research Initiative—to study the causes and consequences of lobster shell disease. This funding is jointly managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries Service), the University of Rhode Island (URI), and Rhode Island Sea Grant. The goal of this project is to describe the disease agent and how it works, and to determine the extent and severity of the disease in New England waters.

The specific objectives are:

  • Provide spatial and temporal data on shell disease.
  • Produce new information that can be used for understanding the outbreak of shell disease and the consequences of shell disease.
  • Relay that information to other researchers, industry and the general public.
  • Develop a plan for continued funding beyond this initiative.

We invite you to read more about the initiative or contact us for more information.


University of Rhode Island Fisheries Center
East Farm Campus
Building 83
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881