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Will the Maine lobster glut affect us?


Published: Oct 22, 2013

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When we think of the negative impact of climate change, big weather events come to mind, like massive flooding, tsunamis and dangerous hurricanes. We often also evoke images of these perils crippling poor developing countries.

The United States, however, may be the most recent country to fall victim to climate change, given that it is this to which the abundant supply of lobsters in Maine has now been attributed.

I know, lots of lobsters sound like a very good thing but the lobster fishermen in Maine might have to disagree with you.

According to some climate change experts, global warming may have resulted in higher than normal temperatures in the North Atlantic, which has led to Maine lobster fishermen hauling in record amounts of lobster, which in turn is sending the price of the product tumbling in the U.S.

The question is: could this affect our lobster export market here in The Bahamas?

With the current price apparently as low as $2.50 per pound, fishermen are finding it difficult to break even, much less make a profit.

Low profitability would inevitably put U.S. jobs in this area at risk and when countries get worried about jobs, sometimes protectionism kicks in.

With an oversupply of lobsters in the U.S., I wonder if they would begin trimming imports from countries like The Bahamas. The U.S. is currently our biggest market for lobsters.

According to the Autumn Edition of the New England Aquarium, it is possible that the warmer waters result in better conditions for larval lobsters.

In general, the lobsters could be experiencing a longer growing season, may also be growing more rapidly and possibly hatching earlier.

These warmer ocean temperatures combined with overfishing of cod, a natural predator of lobsters, might also be contributing to the problem.

Our local industry has faced its own set of challenges in recent times, including high fuel costs, reduced demand during the economic downturn, and not to mention our inability to control poachers and the activities of pleasure crafts.

Locally, we have experienced the double whammy of a drop in price and reduced demand for export. This has led to our local lobster fishermen resorting to diversifying by fishing for other products.

In Maine, the other factor lurking in the background is that warmer oceans may eventually have another damaging effect – a possible shell disease outbreak which is known to wipe out lobster populations.

What this all means for The Bahamas is yet unknown, but I think it is a matter to keep our eye on.

• We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to sbrown@graphitebahamas.com. Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.


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