Alarm Bells Sounding Off on Maine Lobsters

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Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution confirmed with 99 percent certainty that the Gulf Stream is weakening, and with it the future of seafood species like lobster off the U.S. East Coast is uncertain. The Gulf Stream, key for moving warm water up the U.S. East Coast, is slowing down, with a 4% decrease over 40 years.

The shifting Gulf Stream is occurring at the same time as the lobster population in the Gulf of Maine has experienced a sharp decline, with recent assessments showing that the population of young lobsters dropped by nearly 40 percent over three years.

The decline in lobsters is occurring at the same time as a population increase of blue crabs – which favor warmer water – in the Gulf of Maine. While the exact reason for the decline is still unclear, scientists have speculated warmer waters will mean fewer lobsters.

This decline, observed since 2016, has led to fewer mid-growth lobsters. In response, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission considered new fishing rules, but delayed them after a 39% decline in juvenile lobsters was found. The cause, potentially linked to Gulf Stream changes, ocean acidification, or shifts in copepods, remains under study.