Warmer seas largely attributed to climate change have resulted in a massive oversupply of the North American delicacy, causing prices to tumble
When people describe communities devastated by climate change it tends to evoke images of drought in Africa and flooding in Asia.
But the economic implications for some in the developed world can be just as dramatic.
That’s increasingly the case with the famous Maine lobster industry, which is suffering from an enormous oversupply due to thriving lobster populations in warmer seas.
With over 57 million kilograms of lobster caught in 2012, prices have tumbled to well below their break-even point.
Admittedly climate change isn’t the only cause of the Maine fishermen’s plight: Canada now processes the majority of the region’s lobster and therefore has great influence over market price.
But these in turn are influenced by Canada’s own fisheries, which happened to have a bumper harvest this spring, saturating the market.
All this undercuts the price and puts local jobs at risk. So much for the irrelevance of climate change.
“Out of control”
That’s how one driver described the lobster populations he witnessed in the Gulf of Maine.
And the warmer waters aren’t just affecting lobster. Prolonged algae blooms are swamping out light which is causing other species, like sharks, to suffer.
As the following map demonstrates, sea temperatures over the last two decades in places like North America, the Arctic and the Mediterranean have dramatically increased.
Who knows which other marine species and industries will be affected by these changes.
Ironically the greatest climate change-related threat to the lobster industry is still to come. Warmer seas increase the likelihood of a shell disease outbreak, which has already wiped out populations further down the coast that had thrived until the late 1990s.
With seas set to warm up even more, the Maine lobster industry may, unfortunately, become a case study of climate change devastation.