Researchers predict end of state’s lobster boom, media report

The Portland Press Herald, Mainebiz and Associated Press cited University of Maine research in an article about the future of Maine’s lobster industry. A new study led by UMaine alumnus Noah Oppenheim, executive director of San Francisco’s Institute for Fisheries Resources, predicts lobster landings will fall 20–40% in the next four to five years in much of eastern Maine, and by over 90% in the eastern part of Penobscot Bay. Forecasts in the study, which Oppenheim conducted with colleagues at UMaine and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, are based on an improved version of the current lobster forecasting model, according to the article. “I always emphasize that we don’t have a crystal ball here, but by and large the model appears to be performing pretty well and it does point to a pretty widespread downturn,” said co-author Rick Wahle, professor and director of the Lobster Institute at UMaine. Another paper by Wahle and several other UMaine researchers suggests that as the Gulf of Maine has warmed, the area of thermally appropriate baby lobster habitat has expanded. This, according to the UMaine team, may explain why eastern Maine has seen the sharpest increase in landings in recent years but also might offer hope that there are a lot more healthy infant lobsters settling in the sea than the new forecasting model assumes. “Those forecasts may be overly pessimistic if this deepwater settlement is offsetting those severe declines we predict based on shallow-water settlement alone,” Wahle said. “So that’s the uncertainty that we are left with at this moment, so to some extent we have to take a wait-and-see approach to this.” Undercurrent News and Island Institute also reported on the studies, and Boothbay Register, Coastal News and ScienceDaily published the UMaine news release. Saving Seafood carried the post. The Washington Post, News Center Maine, Portland Press Herald, and Saving Seafood carried the AP article.