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Earth & Marine Sciences - Lobster and Marine Fisheries Research

lobster clawThe gilded trap

In the past two decades, the diversity of income from the fish and seafood harvested in Maine has declined by almost 70 percent, leaving an American lobster monoculture that makes up the vast majority of the state’s marine resource value.

Fortunately, lobsters have remained abundant in the Gulf of Maine, yielding an increase in value of nearly 400 percent since 1985.

But the current success of Maine’s lobster fishery is a gilded trap that could threaten the coast’s social and economic underpinnings, according to a team of international researchers, led by University of Maine marine scientist Robert Steneck.

The researchers define gilded traps as social constructs in which collective actions resulting from economically attractive opportunities outweigh concerns about social and ecological risks or consequences. Avoiding or escaping the gilded trap created by reliance on one or a few high-value species requires resource management focused on increasing biological and economic diversity — a difficult process when profits remain high in the pre-crisis mode, say the researchers from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Biodiversity thus becomes a way to increase economic diversity, which could reduce the ecosystem/social system’s tendency toward booms and busts — with ever-increasing serious consequences.

The long-term challenge is to shift to an integrated, social-


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