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PEI could be overrun with lobster because of climate change

lobster PEI

lobster PEILobster and PEI. They have gone together for a century. Now they may be getting even closer.

Of all the doom and gloom news that comes from climate change, such as waterfront cities like Miami and New Orleans possibly disappearing in our lifetime, this one somehow doesn’t seem so bad.

Due to warming water trends, experts say the province of Prince Edward Island could become a veritable hatchery for lobster within a half-century. While they caution there is a lot they don’t know about the spiny delicacies, it does seem almost certain that the trend toward abundance in the Atlantic Canadian lobster fishery is not about to slow down.

“With the temperature increasing in P.E.I. waters and decreasing the number of days a baby lobster is susceptible, you have less predation and an increase in settlement size lobsters,” says Memorial University grad student Ryan Stanley, who is the grandson of a lobster fisherman in P.E.I.

Experts are gathering in Charlottetown this week for the “U.S.-Canada Lobster Symposium”, a three day conference that is sponsored by the The PEI Fishermen’s Association and is intended to look at the effects of climate change on the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada and the Northeast United States.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which manages 10,000 licensed harvesters in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, notes that lobster hauls are in a long-term upswing. The government agency says that lobster “landings”, a primary indicator of abundance, rose from 56,554 tonnes in 2009 to 66,500 tonnes in 2011, and rose further in 2013 to 74,686 tonnes. At the time of 2009’s catch, it was the second highest on record in 20 years.

“In 1990, lobster landings in the Gulf of Maine—the heart of U.S. lobstering—broke a record that had stood since 1889,” notes writer J.B. Mackinnon. “Since then, new highs have been set fourteen more times; annual hauls are now quadruple the 1990 record.”

Writing for The New Yorker, Canadian J.D Mackinnon recently posited that warming water might not be the only factor behind the rising hauls. He points to the over fishing of lobster predator cod and the fact that lobster traps are “notoriously inefficient” and effectively provide a reliable feed source for the crustaceans, turning the lobster fishery into something resembling aquaculture.

Mackinnon points out that the prevalence of lobster as the dominant catch in the region has happened within a generation, and notes that lobster now represents almost 80% of the total value of Maine’s commercial fishery.

“In 1990, lobster landings in the Gulf of Maine—the heart of U.S. lobstering—broke a record that had stood since 1889,” says Mackinnon. “Since then, new highs have been set fourteen more times; annual hauls are now quadruple the 1990 record.”

And while lobster seems to be everywhere these days, in the ubiquitous casual fine dining restaurant staple lobster mac and cheese , to chowders, to the McDonald’s lobster roll, the “McLobster” (which, two decades ago, required my saving the wrapper to prove to West Coast friends that it actually existed), the rise in availability is being met with equal or better demand from places like China.

Recently, Nova Scotia’s Do Lobster told Undercurrent News it had sold 300 metric tons of lobster in ten months through online auction site Gfresh. The wholesaler said total lobster sales to China nearly reached 2014 levels by the end of June this year.

But at the lobster symposium in Charlottetown another expert warned against jumping to conclusions about the future of the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada.

“Lobster is a complex beast,” said Dr. Remy Rochette of the University of New Brunswick. “We just don’t have enough information to model all the possible impacts and complications and I think when we use these models to make predictions we have to understand that they have to be validated.”


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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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  1. The ice caps have never once in the history of this planet survived with CO2 levels as high as we have already achieved.
    This means that we are guaranteed to suffer a 75 metre rise in sea level.
    This means that PEI will no longer exist in 300 years.

    Here is an interesting tool to show what will happen with various amounts of sea level rise.
    See if your city will still exist.


  2. Lobsters?
    They used to be poor people food you know?
    Rich or middle class kids would make fun of you at school if they see you eating lobster for lunch.

    But restaurants and chefs made it popular. So now its the opposite…

  3. actually NASA just released the near record measurements of the ice caps

    Updated data from NASA satellite instruments reveal the
    Earth’s polar ice caps have not receded at all since the satellite
    instruments began measuring the ice caps in 1979. Since the end of 2012,
    moreover, total polar ice extent has largely remained
    above the post-1979 average. The updated data contradict one of the most
    frequently asserted global warming claims – that global warming is
    causing the polar ice caps to recede.


  4. I know an old lady who told me the same: only the poor used to eat lobster.

    o tempora o mores!

  5. 18+ years and no warming — the cult of Mann made warming is spinning furiously. By the way all real scientist are skeptical.

  6. Just the sight of those silly bibs they make you wear at the restaurants would be reason enough to make fun of them.

  7. Show me scientific proof of your assertion.
    A peer reviewed paper.
    The fact is that CO2 levels have been directly measured for the last century and are rising every year.
    That would make every year a proof that you are wrong.

  8. Greenthinker may be exaggerating a bit, but your statement is flat wrong. Over the last 400,000 years atmospheric CO2 generally averaged between 180 parts per million to 280 parts per million, and exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time ever recorded in in May 2013. And there is global scientific consensus that is the case, so either you are lying, or someone is lying to you.

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