This year’s lobster season is likely to begin earlier than normal because of conditions that researchers say are similar to 2012, when an early start and a sharp increase in landings drove prices down and created chaos in the state’s most valuable fishery.

The forecast – calling for a 55 percent chance of an “extremely early” start to the season, meaning at least three weeks before the traditional start in early July – was released Thursday by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, which bases its projections on water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine.

As in 2012, those temperatures are running well above normal and, in some locations, are at record highs for this time of year, said Andrew Pershing, chief science officer for the institute. Lobsters winter in deeper waters offshore and react to the warming temperatures by moving inshore and shedding their shells before growing new ones.

The early start to the 2012 lobster season, which arrived before the tourists who fuel demand for the crustaceans, coupled with an increase in landings of more than 20 percent, from 104.9 million pounds in 2011 to 127.3 million pounds in 2012, threw the industry into turmoil.

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