By George Harvey
With climate change, New England’s ocean waters have been warming. Temperatures have been going up in the Gulf of Maine, the waters off Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, about as fast as anywhere on Earth, and Long Island Sound is only slightly better. Climate change is beginning to take a toll on area fishing.
Recently, lobster fishing has been good in Maine, with record hauls, and that is partly because of the warming waters, which generally favor the adult animals. Warmer waters can lead to shell rot and other problems, but they are still generally good for big lobsters.
When things get just a bit too warm, however, things get much worse. Lobster fishing in Long Island Sound, which is just a little warmer than the Gulf of Maine, has fallen off so sharply that new regulations are being considered to limit catches.
Now, the problem is being seen in the northern New England waters. As adult populations of lobsters appear to be high, the juvenile populations appear to have crashed – and scientists are very puzzled about what is happening.
The problem might be that with warmer water, the juvenile lobster populations moved into places where scientists do not know to look for them. On the other hand, many fish, especially species that prefer warmer water, like eating the tiny lobsters, and the decline might be tied to a rise in populations of such fish.
If the juvenile population really has fallen, then the fisheries will not hold out for long. What is happening in Long Island Sound will probably also happen in Maine.
For those who really love a shore vacation dining on seafood, a crash in the lobster population could hardly come at worse time. Many fishery species have already seen steep population declines that may be related to climate change. The species hit by the declines include cod, haddock, plaice, pollock, and redfish.
We can hold out hope. A friend returned from a long vacation in Thailand and told me they have one thing that is always delicious everywhere in the country, which could always be bought at a modest price, can be grown anywhere, and tastes a lot like shrimp. It is fried crickets. Yum!