Today’s ‘Planet Earth Report’ –A Global Harbinger –“Climate Change Brought a Lobster Boom. Now It Could Cause a Bust”



"Warming waters in the Gulf of Maine have benefited lobsters and the lobstermen who trap them. But as temperatures rise further, will the industry reach a tipping point? The maximum water temperature that a lobster can tolerate is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that, “their system starts shutting down, one organ after another,” said Dr. Richard Wahle, director of the Wahle Lab and a leading expert on the America lobster. Consecutive days above this limit in Southern New England, he said, had lead to “mass mortality.”

"For lobsters in the earliest stage of their life cycle, however, the impacts of warming waters are less well understood. And despite healthy numbers of brood stock, scientists have seen a collapse in larval lobsters in the Gulf of Maine in recent years. “We have a multimillion-dollar industry, and a woefully inadequate understanding,” said Curtis Brown, a lobsterman and marine biologist for Ready Seafood, one of the state’s largest exporters of lobster. A shell disease, which scientists have also attributed in part to warming waters, is another threat."

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VINALHAVEN, Me. — At 3:30 in the morning on a Friday in late May, the lobstermen ate breakfast. Outside, their boats bobbed in the labradorite water, lit only by the dull yellow of streetlamps across the bay. It was windy, too windy for fishing, but one by one the island’s fishermen showed up at the Surfside cafe anyway. Over pancakes and eggs, they grumbled about the season’s catch to date.

Some of the lobstermen said it was just too early in the season. Others feared that it was a sign of things to come. Since the early 1980s, continues Livia Albeck‑Ripka in The New York Times, climate change had warmed the Gulf of Maine’s cool waters to the ideal temperature for lobsters, which has helped grow Maine’s fishery fivefold to a half-billion-dollar industry, among the most valuable in the United States. But last year the state’s lobster landings dropped by 22 million pounds, to 111 million.



“Climate change really helped us for the last 20 years,” said Dave Cousens, who stepped down as president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association in March. But, he added, “Climate change is going to kill us, in probably the next 30.”

Scientists say a variety of factors have contributed to the boom, including overfishing of predators like cod and the lobstermen’s own conservation efforts. But without climate change, Maine’s lobster fishery would not be anywhere near as successful as it is today, said Richard A. Wahle, a professor at the University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences.

The Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans for much of this century, driven by climate change in combination with natural variation. By 2050, that warming could cut lobster populations in the gulf by up to 62 percent, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute says. That has left some lobstermen feeling anxious.

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Image: With thanks to  Terragalleria and





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