Warm waters alarm Maine lobstermen

For those in the lobster industry, any sign of a return to the conditions of 2012 is cause for high anxiety.

Researchers say the industry needs to be prepared for that possibility because warming trends are laying the groundwork for a potential repeat of the disastrous season of four years ago.

“We learned a hard lesson in 2012,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

Because of warm waters in the Gulf of Maine, peak harvesting started in May that year, weeks ahead of schedule. The catch jumped more than 20 percent, from 104 million pounds in 2011 to 127 million pounds in 2012. The shedding season, when lobsters lose their hard shells and grow new ones, typically happens in June and results in soft-shelled lobsters that are difficult to transport. In 2012, shedding began almost as soon as the lobstermen started pulling in traps, and extended into the fall.

As a result, prices paid to lobstermen fell to as low as $2 a pound.

Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, said Thursday that the stage is set for a possible repeat of 2012, at least weather-wise.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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