Lobster prices are falling again this season and are not expected to rise largely due to climate change, which is good news for consumers but not for lobstermen.
Lobster fishers in Massachusetts got just about USD 3.74 per lb last week, just four cents more than in July 2012, when prices were at their lowest. This translates into USD 6.99 to USD 9.99 a lb at the supermarket.
Climate change is warming ocean waters, helping eradicate predators and thereby leaving a more plentiful lobster supply for years to come. Another reason for larger lobster populations is looser regulations on the crustacean’s predators â cod, halibut and hake — which means more of them are being fished and fewer are left in the water to hunt for lobsters, Boston Globe reports.
“You’re seeing this explosion in catches,” said Rick Wahle, a professor at Darling Marine Centre at the University of Maine. “You remove those large fish from the population, and lobsters outgrow their predators faster than they used to, and it allows them to exploit habitats they didn’t use to.”
Lobster season starts when lobsters shed their shells, or molt, which typically happens around 4 July — but now it is happening sooner due to global warming. In 2012, it started in late May, which meant that the US season started before the Canadian season had ended, resulting in record low prices because of the overabundant supply.
“It’s like a Catch-22,” said Bob Glenn, chief marine fisheries biologist for the state of Massachusetts. “They need to catch more lobsters to do more volume and stay in business, but when they put more lobsters on the market the price goes down.”
Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts lobster fishers’s Association, explained that fishers need to get about USD 4 a lb for their catch just to break even, but lately they have been fetching less than that.
This week kicks off the busiest part of lobster season in New England and sets a precedent for prices throughout the summer.
At the same time, lobsters have shown a negative reaction to warming water and ocean acidification, which is evident in their early molting and moving north to colder waters. Disease and parasites could add to the problem if climate change is not slowed down, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), which launched a related campaign this week, Grist reports.
“We are beginning to see the effects of climate change in the Gulf of Maine, and what we are seeing should make us worried,” said Emmie Theberge, a member of the NRCM.