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Are Baby Lobsters In Trouble? Warming Waters, Ocean Acidification Threaten Lobster Industry

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Rising sea water temperature in the Gulf of Maine is posing a big threat to the survival of baby lobsters and there will be bad economic consequences for industry stakeholders.

This was revealed in a newly published research by the University of Maine Darling Marine Center (DMC) and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

Published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, the study explains how larvae of American lobster is affected by ocean acidification and ocean warming.

Noting that acidification is still not a serious threat to the survival of young lobsters, the study highlighted the struggle larvae faced when exposed to water 3 degrees Celsius higher than the normal water temperature in the Gulf of Maine.

For the study, the researchers raised 3,000 baby lobsters as soon as they were hatched.

"They developed twice as fast as they did in the current temperature of 16 C (61 F), and they had noticeably lower survival," said Jesica Waller, lead author and a graduate student at the DMC.

There is already a forecast by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that Maine's temperature will increase 5 degrees more by 2100. Experts said the study is a wake-up call.

The vagaries of climate crisis have already taken a toll of the lobster fishery in Southern New England, noted Jesica Waller.

"There has been a near total collapse in Rhode Island, the southern end of the fishery, and we know our waters are getting warmer," Waller added.

At present, the lobster market is flourishing. Prices are up and new markets have opened in Asia, where the growing middle class is craving for America's prestigious seafood.

Gulf Of Maine's Rapid Warming

Ocean warming in the Gulf of Maine was specifically mentioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. They warned that the Gulf of Maine had warmed 99 percent faster than any other sea and cods are fleeing the region. Like lobsters, cods are a cold water species.

Concerns are high as the fortunes of Gulf of Maine are under threat. The lobster population was up in the past 20 years. In 2015, Maine lobstermen had a record catch of $495.4 million worth of lobsters.

Lobster exports from Maine have zoomed $103 million in the first six months of 2016. The largest beneficiaries of Maine lobsters were the U.S. fishermen who had a catch of more than 100 million pounds.

Photo: Craig Nagy | Flickr

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