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Consequence of Climate Change: Baby Lobsters Cannot Survive in Warmer Waters

Sep 27, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
Baby lobster
This European baby lobster is being released to the wild to repopulate its habitat in Germany. Similar to this baby lobster are their Maine-counterparts, which scientists recently found could not survive in warmer waters.
(Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Baby lobsters will not survive if waters continue to warm, according to a recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

This finding could be bad news for the future of lobsters as well as the lobster industry. The study was published in the scientific journal ICES Journal of Marine Science, ABC News reports.

The study conducted an experiment where it was found that lobster larvae struggled when reared in environments warmer by five degrees Fahrenheit than the usual temperature in the Gulf of Maine, where most lobsters thrive. High temperatures help baby lobsters to develop faster, but despite this help to avoid predators, only a few baby lobsters survive.

This finding will surely impact the thriving lobster industry in the U.S. as well as in Asia. In the U.S. alone, fishermen have caught 100 million pounds of lobsters for seven years in a row.

However, the effects of warming waters to the fishing industry have been noticeable in southern reaches, wherein scientists have discovered that rising temperatures are contributing to the lobsters' decline. The lobster catch in the south of Cape Cod fell to about 3.3 million pounds in 2013, 16 years since its peak of about 22 million in 1997.

The effect is already felt in the southern parts, where according to the scientists, rising temperatures have added to the decline. In south of Cape Cod, the catch of lobsters declined to 3.3 million in 2013, compare to 22 million in 1997.

"There has been a near total collapse in Rhode Island, the southern end of the fishery, and we know our waters are getting warmer," Jessica Waller, one of the authors' study said. "We are hoping this research can be a jumping off point for more research into how lobsters might do over the next century."

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expecting that the Gulf of Maine's temperature will hit five degrees by 2100. The study is first of its kind as it discusses how warmer waters and increasing acidification in the ocean affect lobsters. 

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