“The principle of this mooring is that, rather than being a featureless block of concrete or granite, it creates habitat,” said Lobster Institute Executive Director Robert Bayer on May 26.

“It’s full of tunnels,” he said. “Those habitats are shelters for lobster — which is our target — as well as crabs. Fish will swim through it.”

Bayer was in Rockport to accompany Capt. Robert Iserbyt of Rockport Charters as he installed one of the new moorings for a customer. In addition to installing and maintaining moorings, Iserbyt runs a 24-hour dive, towing and water taxi service, takes visitors out on Penobscot Bay for photography excursions, and brings campers to the islands.

The habitat mooring was invented by Stewart Hardison of Oneonta, N.Y.

“It came to me in a roundabout way,” said Hardison.

“I’ve been into environmental issues all my life,” he said. “Five or six years ago, I became interested in wind power.” He said pressure to stop wind development in New York state led him to look toward Maine.

“Everything seemed to come back to Maine,” Hardison said of the national conversation about wind power. He said concept renderings of the various designs for ocean wind turbines showed large mooring blocks.

“It popped into my mind that all that massive structure could be used as habitat,” he said. Hardison wrote to Ian Bricknell, director of the Aquaculture Research Institute at University of Maine, and was eventually led to Bayer and Lobster Institute Assistant Director Cathy Billings.

In time, he developed the design of a large concrete block with channels molded into it, the Habitat Mooring System 4000.

Each fiberglass filament reinforced block weighs 4,025 pounds, carries a 15-pound hitch bar, and can secure a boat of up to 40 feet in length or more, depending on the harbor bottom and other conditions.

Iserbyt said he saw the habitat moorings advertised through Hamilton Marine and that the cost was not much more than that of a granite mooring.

“The fact that they have a removable hitch rod made it more appealing,” he said. Iserbyt said the hitch rod replaces the metal staple traditionally used to connect a mooring to its chain and buoy.

“A staple needs to be put in by somebody with a crane and torches,” said Iserbyt. “That job in itself can cost $350 or more.” He said the steel hitch rod, galvanized bolts and stainless steel cotter pins in the habitat mooring cost about $50.

“I ordered six of them,” he said.

After Iserbyt placed his order, he got a phone call from Hardison, who wanted to see the place where those six blocks would be set.

On May 26, Hardison, Bayer, Billings and a pair of television crews were on hand as Iserbyt and crewmember Owen Casas set a mooring. Later, Bayer gave Iserbyt a certificate of appreciation for his “ongoing support of the Lobster Institute.”

Bayer said the invention was likely to be of greater value in southern New England than in Maine, because the resource is healthy in Maine waters.

He said one habitat mooring, already in place in Seal Harbor on Mount Desert Island, is being monitored by University of Maine at Orono graduate student Chris Roy. Divers have made video recordings of the life that is colonizing the mooring.

Another mooring will be used as a larval lobster nursery, said Bayer.

“That’s going to be done in cooperation with Brian Beal of the Downeast Institute on Beals Island,” he said.

Bayer said $50 from the sale of each mooring block would go to the Lobster Institute to support its research and educational activities. He said that 15 percent of adult lobsters in Maine had no home shelter and that the constant search for protective habitat exposes lobsters to predators and disrupts life cycle behavior.

“Every ball you see is a mooring,” Bayer said as he looked out over Rockport Harbor. “If every one was a habitat mooring, it would have a large impact on the lobster population and biodiversity.”

Rockport Charters has a Facebook page and can be reached at 691-1006. To learn more about habitat moorings, visit the website at habitatmooring.com.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.