PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Leaders of Maine's lobster industry joined restaurant owners and scientists on Monday to warn that global climate change poses a threat to Maine's lobster population. They say climate change is causing the water of the Gulf of Maine to become warmer, and that won't be good for lobsters in the future.
Dr. Rick Wahle, a lobster scientist at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, says the Gulf of Maine had been warming slowly for decades, but the rate of warming increased significantly around 2004. Wahle says the projections are that Gulf water temperatures will continue to increase another two to four degrees Celsius by the end of this century. He says that kind of an increase could make lobsters more vulnerable to disease, such as the shell disease that has devastated lobster populations in Rhode Island and Long Island Sound.
The Natural resources Council of Maine says it hopes Maine people and tourists will support the new efforts to fight climate change that were announced by President Obama last week, specifically new restrictions on coal-burning power plants. The lobster industry itself is dependent on fossil fuel to operate boats and trucks. However, the NRCM says 40% of the carbon emissions in the U.S. come from those fossil-fuel power plants. The organization says it plans to take the climate change message to various lobster-related events this summer, including the annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland.
Portland lobster dealer John Ready, the president of the Maine Restaurant Association and the director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council also took part in the climate change event, and said they share the concerns about the potential impact on Maine lobsters in the years ahead.
Until now, rising water temperatures have been credited with helping to expand the lobster population. But last year's record harvest, which caused a glut of lobsters that drove down prices for fishermen, showed how the fishery can be vulnerable to population problems.