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article imageRising ocean temperatures threatening Maine lobster industry

By Karen Graham     Sep 24, 2016 in Environment
A new study released by the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is warning that baby lobsters will not be able to survive in the Gulf of Maine's warming ocean waters
The new study is more bad news for the lobster industry in New England, coming out a year after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) released its lobster stock assessment report on August 5, 2015.
The new research was published in a supplement to the scientific journal ICES Journal of Marine Science this month and is the only published study focusing on how larvae of the American lobster will be affected by ocean acidification and warming, just two aspects of climate change, reports Phys.Org.
American Lobster (Homarus americanus) with eggs.
American Lobster (Homarus americanus) with eggs.
Interestingly, the scientists found that increasing ocean acidification had almost no effect on the survival rates of the young lobsters. But warmer temperatures did impact their rate of survival. Not only did the larvae grow faster at increased temperatures, but the survival rate was greatly diminished.
The scientists discovered that when lobster larvae were reared in temperatures that were five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the waters currently found in the Western Gulf of Maine, they struggled to survive, compared to lobster larvae raised in waters that matched the temperatures currently found in the Gulf, according to CTV News.
"They developed twice as fast as they did in the current temperature of 16 C (61 F), and they had noticeably lower survival," says lead author Jesica Waller, a graduate student at the DMC. "Really only a handful made it to the last larval stage. We noticed it right from the start. We saw more dead larvae in the tank."
Waller cautioned that this was only a short-term study, and didn't take into account the possibility of lobsters adapting to the warmer temperatures. The comment goes against what the ASMFC fisheries report concluded last year. That report noted that lobster populations off the southern New England coast have plummeted to record lows because lobsters were moving further north toward the cooler waters.
Blue lobsters (Homarus americanus) caught during 2009 monkfish survey cruise.
Blue lobsters (Homarus americanus) caught during 2009 monkfish survey cruise.
Anne Richards-NEFSC/NOAA
"It's critical to know how climate change will affect the future of our most important fishery," says Rick Wahle, UMaine research professor, and co-author of the paper. In 2015, Maine's lobster harvest, which accounts for 80 percent of the state's overall fisheries value, was worth about a half-a-billion dollars. "We only need to look to the die-offs south of Cape Cod to see how climate change is having an impact," adds Wahle.
More about baby lobsters, maine lobsters, warming ocean waters, Lobster industry, gulf of maine
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