Law officers, students to receive lobster lessons

Joseph Prezioso/File photo/A fisherman shows a female lobster full of eggs before releasing it. State environmental police are offering workshops to train conservation law enforcement officers on lobster biology and the detection of the illegal removal of eggs.

Last summer, Capt. Kevin Clayton of the Massachusetts Environmental Police went to Chatham to help another coastal law enforcement officer investigate illegal scrubbing and bleaching of eggs off female lobsters. Clayton quickly realized his associate was sailing in unfamiliar waters.

"He hadn't had any formal training in the ways to detect scrubbed or bleached lobsters," Clayton said. "It's really essential training for conducting a proper investigation."

State environmental police are taking a run at closing that training gap — and providing some hands-on marine biology experience for a smattering of technical high school students — with a pair of workshops to train conservation law enforcement officers from a variety of jurisdictions on lobster biology and the detection of the illegal removal of eggs.

"This is a huge opportunity for us to meet an important part of our mission and an opportunity to button-up some of our training programs," Clayton said.

One of the joint-training workshops is set for March 17 at Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School in Danvers, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The other is scheduled for March 6 at the Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton.

The sessions will center on methods for detecting if female lobsters have had their eggs removed by scrubbing or bleaching. The illegal practice allows unethical harvesters to pass off egg-bearing female lobsters — which should be returned to the water — as legal keepers.

"It's basically stealing from everybody," Clayton said. "It steals from the resource. It steals from other lobstermen and it steals from generations to come by taking these egg-bearing females out of the fishery."

The goal of the workshops, according to Clayton, is to create an immersive educational atmosphere for participating conservation law enforcement officers from throughout the coastal region and up to 10 students from each local technical high school.

"The field officers are really our target audience, but we also saw this as an opportunity to add a missing component by bringing in high school students to expose them to real-world marine science applications and conservation law enforcement work," Clayton said. "What better place to stoke the fires of wonder and imagination than a high school?"

He said the joint training will allow the students, who will be chosen by the respective technical schools, to experience the collaboration that occurs between marine scientists and officers from coastal conservation law enforcement agencies in lobster-landing states.

The one-hour blocks of instruction will include sessions on lobster reproductive biology, legal issues, evidence collection and a question-and-answer session featuring conservation law enforcement and marine scientists. Clayton said there also will be ample time for professional networking. 

Host instructors will include Bob Glenn and Tracy Pugh from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Kathleen Reardon from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Josh Carloni from New Hampshire Fish & Game, Conor McManus from the Rhode Island Division of Marine Fisheries, Kim McKown of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and Burton Shank from NOAA Fisheries.

Conservation law enforcement officers interested in attending the training exercise must RSVP to Leta Etheridge at NOAA Fisheries by March 10 for the Danvers session. There is no fee for attending. 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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