June 30, 2014
NEW HAVEN — Global warming already has begun to transform Long Island Sound, according to many marine scientists, creating climate-change winners, like blue crabs, and losers, like lobsters.
At least one researcher believes the warming waters of the Sound could someday become a Connecticut version of Chesapeake Bay, with blue crabs numerous enough to support a whole new fishing industry. Other experts warn that global warming can hurt a species like crabs as much as it helps.
At the moment, one of the Sound's biggest climate-change victims is Homerus americanus, a cold-water-loving beast more commonly known as the American lobster. Long Island Sound is at the southern limit of the lobster's habitat range, and average water temperatures in the Sound have been rising for decades. The lobster population imploded in 1988-89 and never recovered.
While pesticides may have played a role, experts believe the primary culprit for the demise of the Sound's lobsters is global warming. These 10-legged creatures have become so rare that students at New Haven's Sound School no longer bother setting out lobster pots. Instead, they are raising hundreds of the tiny crustaceans in small white containers in an experimental lobster hatchery.
Temperature also is the key reason why one of the biggest winners in this climate shift — at least for the moment — is the blue crab. The Sound had been near the northern limit of the crab's traditional range, but this tasty creature appears to be thriving as the water temperatures off Connecticut's shoreline continue to rise.
"It's certainly well on its way," said Tim Visel, a former lobsterman who now heads up the aquaculture program at New Haven's Sound School.