Earlier today, I heard someone on the TV news that Southern New England’s lobster catch is at an “historic low” this year, while Maine’s lobster catch is very high. Climate change may explain the shift, as it forces lobsters to migrate north to find cooler water. I have been unable to find these exact statements online and I did not record the details of the TV announcement–but the lobster fishery is generally in trouble, both from the warmer water itself and from the acidifying ocean which tends to nibble away at their shells. Curiously, the Gulf of Maine is warming extremely fast right now, much faster than most other ocean regions, and no one is exactly sure why–but the change is bringing southern species into these waters and pushing the more familiar animals north.
What I’m wondering right now–I’ve heard (from actual scientist friends) that Maine’s lobster fishery is sustainable, that it’s current system of licensed lobster fishers actually works. But what is sustainable under one set of circumstances might not be when circumstances change. My concern now is–if a northward migration is causing the lobster population in Maine waters to increase, might that simply be a sign of the same number of lobsters squished into a smaller area? And might the greater density create the illusion of a greater number of lobsters and in turn cause an expansion of the harvest? In which case, Maine’s lobsters will face an increase of hunting pressure right when they are already coping with rapidly deteriorating conditions.
This is not good.