ORONO – Researchers at the University of Maine said increased water temperature and acidity may be affecting Maine’s lobsters.
In this report, we break down how and what that means for one of the largest economic industries in the state.
In 2018, revenue from lobster fishing along the Maine coast brought in nearly $550 million, according to data from the Department of Marine Resources.
Scientists at the University of Maine’s Aquaculture Research Center are trying to figure out how the changing environment will impact lobsters in the future.
“We know that ocean acidification is increasing. We know that temperature is increasing. We’re trying to look at these end century temperatures and pHs,” said Heather Hamlin, associate professor of the School of Marine Sciences at University of Maine’s campus in Orono.
Dr. Amalia Harrington, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maine’s Hamlin Laboratory, has been studying lobsters for several years. Harrington said the Gulf of Maine is warming much faster than other regions in the world.
“It’s also experiencing these seasonal changes in terms of the chemistry, so that’s making it more acidic … We want to know what’s going on inside the animals. So we look at their blood chemistry and their heart rate,” Harrington said.
In some of her early research, after increasing temperature and acidity in the water, she found how some of these conditions could impact adolescent female lobsters.
“I’ve found that those animals that could experience a more acidic environment that could be occurring at the end of the century in the Gulf of Maine, they have a lower tolerance so they can’t maintain heart function as lobsters under current conditions,” said Harrington.
What she is trying to understand is the longterm effect on the species.
“So down the line, I’d really like to look at are they investing as much energy into reproduction as you would hope to have a successful next generation of lobsters,” Harrington said.
All of the research is done in the lab. They mimic conditions in the ocean by creating similar elements in containers. She’s hoping her experimentation will help lobstermen and the lobster industry.
She says her research continues in June.