Maine Lobsters’ Struggle to Beat Climate Change

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Madison Li


Introduction

Climate Change is a term defined as the change in global or regional climate patterns and is commonly associated with increasing temperatures of the air and of the oceans, due to an excess of greenhouse gases (gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation) in the atmosphere. How will these changes affect marine life, and what could this mean for Maine’s lobster industry?

Lobsters are a staple of the seafood industry. Lobsters are one of the most prevalent crustaceans used in cooking around the world. Maine is arguably the best state in the country to try your first lobster roll; however, fishing them isn’t as easy as it might seem. You can’t just set a trap and catch hundreds of lobster at once. Fishermen are required to earn their lobster permits and commercial fishing licenses to be able to fish in a certain area. Once they’ve obtained their permits they must buy traps, which range from $20-$100 per lobster pots, and find a suitable area on the coast to fish in. This is a struggle for new fishermen because lobster pots are expensive and almost every island or coastal city of Maine has a fishing hierarchy.


Most lobster pots are inherited by relatives, and in addition, those who have been fishing in the area for an extended amount of time get first priority as to where they are able to place their traps. If a new fisherman puts their traps in another’s territory, they can be cut off and will end up having to buy new traps.

Fishing is one of the biggest industries in Maine, bringing in about $1 billion in revenue annually and coming second only to tourism for largest industry. Because of this, the lobster industry plays a huge role in the lives of those who live in Maine. However, there is one problem preventing them from bringing in “bountiful harvests,” called ‘Epizootic shell disease.’ (See Photo below)


Epizootic shell disease on a lobster from Maine. Courtesy of the University of Maine.

After an American lobster contracts Epizootic shell disease, black splotches appear on the back on their shells and gain, “deep, melanized lesions [1],” according to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. This makes the lobsters unmarketable meaning there are economic as well as environmental impacts to the disease. The origins of this disease are still unknown, however, some scientists suggest this calcification disease is due to thermal stress, which is oppressed onto their immune systems. The lobster industry relies on these highly prized crustaceans, who supposedly are ‘immortal,’ they have a gene in their system which allows them to live eternally.


Focusing on trying to completely halt the effects of climate change on the world seems almost impossible. Many organizations believe we need to focus on how to adapt to climate change. The Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine, is one such research facility that’s helping us prepare for the future. At the Darling Marine Center, students from the University of Maine and from various other Universities from across the country study the effects of rising pH levels (acidity levels) of the ocean on many different marine species. They are conducting research on marine snails to observe how they will be affected when various stressors that an increase of greenhouse gases are added to their lab tanks. This research will provide an insight to how certain marine species will react to ocean acidification in the near future.

Climate change and its effects are creeping up on us faster than we can keep up with. It’s diminishing people’s lives, commercial industries, and the lives of many beloved animals. We had the chance to put a stop to this disaster when it first came to light decades ago and chose not to. Now we are at a more crucial moment than ever. Let us not let the Earth languish to the demise of our own doings, instead, let us set in motion conservational steps so we may preserve the planet which we call home.


#ClimateChange

#SaveOurLobsters

#TheScientificTeen

References

[1] “Lobster Shell Disease”. Virginia Institute of Marine Science. www.vims.edu/research/departments/eaah/programs/crustacean/research/lobster_shell_disease/. Retrieved; 23/09/2018.

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