Seafood For Thought: Lobsters Feel The Heat Of Climate Change

BY ON September 12, 2014

Maine lobster sign

One of our favorite summer traditions is a day spent on Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The beach is pristine, rarely crowded and there are never ending rocks for the kids to climb on.

This summer we stayed longer than usual. The number of fish and sea creature discoveries were plentiful and our buckets were filled to the brim with a variety of different species.

While exploring the rocks,  one of the kids yelled out “lobster” and we all came running. A few of the boys had actually found a lobster hidden among the seaweed by the rocky shoreline.

The other night at the dinner table I asked my kids to list their favorite summer memories. That day at Crescent Beach was high on the list for all of us. It’s hard to imagine that someday those rocks might be completely underwater, never to emerge again. And that great lobster discovery will be a long lost memory.

But that day is a very real possibility.

Scientists say the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than more than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. According to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute Chief Scientific Officer, Andy Pershing, the Gulf’s surface temperature began warming nearly 10 times faster around 2004. And scientists say the warming is also causing the Gulf’s sea water level to rise. 

The warm water in the Gulf of Maine is initially creating an ideal habitat for Maine lobster. That’s why Maine has experienced an overabundance of lobster over the past few years, bringing the price point of what was once a very expensive delicacy way down. That’s probably one of the reasons my kids were able to spot a lobster for the first time this year. But according to Bob Steneck, a professor at the University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences, the warming trend is on a path to force the lobster to move north or die off.

It’s not only the lobster who are being displaced by the warming water trend. According to a 2009 NOAA report half of 36 fish stocks studied in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, many of them commercially valuable species, have been shifting northward over the last four decades, with some stocks nearly disappearing from U.S. waters as they move farther offshore.

The warming water in the Gulf of Maine is also causing the sea water to rise. Those gorgeous rocks that my kids play on all day may no longer be above water if the warming trend continues. Professor Steneck believes the rising sea is connected to the warming waters because higher temperatures make the water less dense.

The Earth could warm another 2 to 11.5°F this century if we don’t do something about it.


There are so many small ways to limit your contribution to global warming. Everything from going meatless one day each week to driving a more fuel-efficient car can make a significant difference. Every small change can have a big impact, but there’s more each of us can do: Use your voice to support the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan would establish carbon pollution limits on existing power plants, which are the single largest source of climate-destabilizing pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is an important first step in addressing climate change. The Clean Power Plan would reduce carbon pollution 40% below 2005 levels by 2020.

Let’s not let climate change spoil the natural beauty of the gorgeous “Down East” coast.



TOPICS: Climate Change, Food, Maine