Last month I attended the 11th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster, and it was a hit. This event happens only once every 4 years, and is like the olympics of lobster information! During this event, scientists gather from around the world to talk about trends, developments, and discoveries that pertain to this amazing animal and its conservation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned during the event.
One of the things I always teach during my lectures is how lobsters love cold water. This is where they like to mate and feed, so it’s important that the temperature stay below the 65 degree mark. This is one reason why the Maine coast is so perfectly suited for these creatures. In the spring and summer lobsters tend to come close to shore to molt, mate and lay eggs with a majority of Maine lobster being caught within 3 miles of the coast.
Unfortunately, this is starting to change. During this conference, scientists agreed that the waters off the East Coast of North America are heating up quicker than any other place on earth. As these coastal waters get warmer and CO2 levels increase, pH levels decrease, leading to a process of ocean acidification (this is just a fancy way of saying that the water gets more acidic). Not only is warming and acidification going to hurt the fragile marine ecosystem off the coast, it is also going to create changes. Molting, mating, egg production and migratory habits are changing, but also the ability for shellfish to produce and maintain healthy shells. Lobsters and many other creatures will be negatively affected because of these environmental changes in our oceans.
For several years scientists have been finding that lobsters are heading north to cooler and deeper waters to molt, mate, and lay eggs. Lobsters don’t like warmer temperatures, so significant decreases in yearly catches further south on our coast are proof that our oceans are talking to us and sounding the alarm that changes are happening.
For the fishery, this already means having to go farther offshore to catch lobsters, which results in an increase of operating costs. More importantly, though, is this signifying that major changes in our ocean environment is a reality. Over the years, catches in Maine have significantly increased with a record of 131 million pounds harvested in 2016! How long these miraculous harvests will last is anyone’s call, but Mother Nature always has the last word!
For many people the term “Global Warming” may be confusing and difficult to understand, but for scientists studying the planet’s oceans and sea life the proof is obvious. There is lots of data indicating that temperatures, oxygen levels, CO2, and ph levels are changing rapidly – especially off the east coast of North America. Yes, lobsters are talking to us, but are we listening?
Thank you again to the International Conference and Workshop on Lobster for having me come out and attend your event. If you’d like to learn more about how global warming is impacting our lobster fishery, have any questions you’d like me to answer, or want your group to hear more about lobster anatomy, molting, and conservation during one of my experiences, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.