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Lobsters lose out to global warming

By JW Dowey - 01 Aug 2016 12:30:49 GMT
Lobsters lose out to global warming

This lady is in possession of the planktonic future of lobster larvae off Cape Cod. She is marked with a V-shaped notch to record her active breeding status. American lobster image; Credit: © NOAA

The lobsters of New England were among the first sources of food for colonists and still survive well in the north. They form one of the 2 Homarus species that occur only in the Atlantic. They are the biggest crustaceans alive, with Homarus americanus claiming the mass record from its close relative in Europe (nowadays largely fished around Scotland), Homarus gammarus.

New England states govern the catch limits of American lobsters from North Carolina (almost) to the Canadian border, but global warming may now see the shift of these powers exclusively to Canada. With young lobster surveys since 2013 showing declines by at least 50% in all 11 settlement areas recorded by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission the outlook is bleak for both lobster and fishermen. The consumers will also be hit, of course, in the pocket.

It takes 8 years until zooea larvae can become large enough for a basic catch, with breeding age (related to the smallest size of catch allowable) also causing limits on the age at which lobsters can sustainably be caught. Hopefully northern settlement areas will be able to produce their normal numbers, unless other factors are at work. South of Cape Cod, the peak catch has been a 22 million lb (10million kg) catch in 1997 - currently the latest figures are expected to less than 14% of that. This week in Virginia is likely to see restrictions on catches restricting the catch more, to help sustain population levels. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut fishing grounds will suffer the most. It’s all for the good of the marine life around our coats, these creatures being not only the life blood of early colonists, but that of the whole ecosystem.

The report from The Commission is expected on Thursday, with more information on at Lobster fishery restrictions