The Effects of Climate Change on US Lobster States

The Effects of Climate Change on US Lobster States

When lobsters are life, environmental change affects livelihoods, and warming waters will ultimately bust the lobster industry in New England.

The American lobster is a symbol of Maine, central to the state’s ethos and economy. Its image appears on license plates, restaurant signs and clothing. It is sold alive, with its claws banded shut, on docks, at highway rest stops and supermarkets. Cooked, it is served everywhere from seaside shacks to the finest restaurants.

Lobster attracts tourists, feeds locals and is a lifeblood for coastal towns. Its importance has even swelled in recent years as lobsters have been caught in record numbers. Lobster landings – or the amount of lobster caught – have risen fivefold in the past three decades. Lobster has become a half-billion-dollar industry in Maine. And the reason for the boom, according to scientists, is climate change.

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world’s waters, rising at three times the global average. That warming has created optimal conditions for lobsters to reproduce and survive into adulthood. But while the warming waters have resulted in a lobster bonanza, scientists say climate change will ultimately bring a bust to the boom: As the Gulf of Maine continues to warm, that temperature sweet spot for lobsters will continue to move north. That could result in a similar spike in lobsters in Canada, but leave Maine’s industry broken.

According to a report released earlier this year from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland, while the lobster population has risen over 500% along Maine’s coast over the past 30 years, the population is expected to drop by between 40% and 62% by 2050.