The Gulf of Maine’s lobster population, which has boomed even as climate change and overfishing have hurt other commercial species, could suffer if water temperatures keep rising, according to a University of Maine study.
The study suggests that, as the Gulf of Maine continues to grow warmer, the state’s $495 million lobster industry — by far the most valuable commercial fishery in Maine — could face the same kind of population decline that has affected urchins, scallops, groundfish and shrimp. Overfishing greatly reduced harvests for many of these species, but warming waters have been identified as an impediment to recovery.
The new lobster study, conducted by UMaine’s Darling Marine Center and by Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, indicates that larvae reared in 66-degree water had a distinctly higher mortality rate than those cultivated in the water 5 degrees cooler, the temperature now typical in the western Gulf of Maine. Water temperatures in the western Gulf of Maine are expected to rise 5 degrees by 2100