Estimating catchability and density of the European lobster Homarus gammarus from continuous, short-term mark-recapture data

D. J. Skerritt, M. C. Bell, K. J. Lees, A. C. Mill, N. V. C. Polunin, C. Fitzsimmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the commercial and ecological importance of the European lobster Homarus gammarus, estimates of the population dynamics within socio-economically important fishing areas remain understudied. We implemented a mark-recapture approach to estimate population density, rates of loss and catchability of H. gammarus off the coast of northeast England, an important area for lobster fishers, and one of high exploitation. The short-term study used continuous trapping data from a commercial parlour trap array, fished over 6 wk. Over 9 haul occasions, 562 lobsters were marked using persistent external T-bar tags with unique ID numbers; 13.7% of these lobsters were subsequently recaptured. Catch data were used to determine the relationship between trap soak time and the effective fishing effort over time. Capture histories and effort data were analysed using a modified Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) model, adapted for the short-term and continuous nature of the study. Model estimates of male lobster density varied depending on capture occasion between 732 (95% CI = 423, 1267) and 2730 (95% CI = 1585, 4701) lobsters per km2. Similarly, female density was estimated at between 2410 (95% CI = 476, 12176) and 8060 (95% CI = 1592, 40810) lobsters per km2. Low rates of loss of individuals from the area and large differences in catchability between sexes led to a female-skewed density estimate. If these findings are corroborated, the effects of sex-specific catchability and the potential for biased sex composition in populations and catches should be addressed in stock assessments and when interpreting sex ratio data in commercial catches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-89
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2023


  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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