Climate change could lead to more lobster in P.E.I. waters

Steve Sharratt
Published on November 5, 2015

Howard's Cove

©Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer

Prince Edward Island could soon become a lobster nursery on the waves if climate change predictions hold water.

A number of scientists at a joint U.S.-Canada Lobster symposium underway in Charlottetown on Wednesday say a slight increase in water temperatures anticipated around the province over the next 50 years could have a significant impact on the number of lobsters in the waters off the Island.

“We have to be humble in how we predict stocks will change in the future,’’ said Dr. Remy Rochette of the University of New Brunswick.

“But for example, if the sea surface temperature increases by 2.5C, which it is expected to, growth will happen faster.”

In fact, larval development (baby lobster) would grow 20 days faster.

Graduate student Ryan Stanley said that could easily see P.E.I. become a strong incubator for the species.

“With the temperature increasing in P.E.I. waters and decreasing the number of days a baby lobster is susceptible, you have less predation and an increase in settlement size lobsters,” said the Summerside native.

The grandson of a Skinners Pond fishermen, Stanley is completing his doctorate at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

He is just one of a number of scientists giving plenary sessions during the three day event at the Rodd Charlottetown.

“Lobster is a complex beast,’’ said Rochette. “We just don’t have enough information to model all the possible impacts and complications and I think when we use these models to make predictions we have to understand that they have to be validated.”

In the past 30 years, lobster landings have been spectacular and continue to break records every year.

Wendy Watson-Wright, regional director general for the Gulf Region with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said lobster is Canada’s most valuable seafood export with 2,800 tonnes landed in the Gulf region in 2014 valued at $240 million.

The warming of the water in some Canadian lobster producing grounds is actually causing baby lobsters to stick closer to home.

“But let’s not get carried away,” said Rochette. “The devil is in the details.”