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Experts: Ocean warming could affect Maine's lobsters

Lobstering is one of Maine’s most important industries, and its future depends on a sustainable habitat. (WGME)

BOOTHBAY HARBOR (WGME) -- Lobstering is one of Maine’s most important industries, and its future depends on a sustainable habitat.

In an analysis of the data, lead lobster biologist, Kathleen Reardon, found that there have been more days where the ocean temperature is higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 17 years than the previous 95 years combined.

"The water temperature does have a trend that it's warming," Reardon said.

And the lobsters are feeling the heat.

"Warm waters may be part of the kind of suite of factors that could be causing shell disease,” Reardon said. "Shell disease is a bacterial attack on the shell of a lobster."

Reardon says the ideal ocean temperature for lobsters is between 54 and 64 degrees, any higher or lower, and the lobsters become stressed, possibly stopping them from keeping their shells healthy.

"When they're unable to fight off the attack from the bacteria, that's when they develop shell disease," Reardon said.

However, Reardon says Maine’s lobsters have mostly managed to avoid it.

"In southern New England, they've seen levels up to 30 percent in their commercial catch,” Reardon said. “In Maine, we are still seeing less than 1 percent."

Maine lobstermen we spoke with say shell disease hasn't been an issue for them.

As of right now, experts say the conditions are more favorable for lobster reproduction in Maine.

Reardon says warmer temperatures seem to be increasing the size of preferable habitat, because of that, lobsters are venturing farther offshore and their population is growing.

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