Published Date Written by Craig LyonsA new soldier has been enlisted to fight climate change: the Maine lobster.
An informational campaign that launched Tuesday is using Maine's favorite crustaceans as the poster child to show the impact of excessive carbon emissions on the world's oceans. The "Help Maine Lobsters Stay Cool" campaign is being spearheaded by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, with support from the Maine Lobster Promotions Council, the Maine Restaurant Association, the National Wildlife Federation, the University of Maine and lobster-related businesses.
The campaign is designed to remind people about how important lobsters are to Maine's economy, said Emmie Theberge, clean energy outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and what the ocean-dwellers mean to the state's culture and identity. She said climate change, manifested through ocean warming and acidification, threatens Maine's lobster.
"It is therefore vital that Mainers come together to support national efforts to reduce carbon pollution while it is still possible to reduce this threat significantly," she said.
The effects of climate change resulting from carbon emissions include not only warming temperatures in the air and water, Theberge said, but damaging ocean habitats and wildlife. She said carbon pollution isn't just warming the atmosphere but being absorbed into the water — which higher acid levels could damage sea creatures with calcium shells, like lobsters.
President Obama last week rolled out his policy plans to address climate change, which includes limiting carbon emissions, investing in energy efficiency measures and supporting renewable energy development.
Theberge said power plants create 40 percent of the carbon pollution, and that's why it's important to support the president's policies to cut those emissions.
Rick Wahle, a professor at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, said lobsters are on two sides of the climate change issue. In southern New England, lobster populations are suffering from warm temperatures and diseases, he said, but northern New England has benefited from a growth in numbers because of warming temperatures that are more favorable for lobsters.
"I don't want to paint too rosy a picture for the Gulf of Maine," he said, because enemies of the lobster population, whether new predators, biological stresses or diseases, could come into play.
Carbon emissions are directly linked to rising ocean temperatures because of the greenhouse gas effect, Wahle said, but more study is needed to see how to deal with acidification of the water.
"The emissions choices that we make now will effect how fast climate change will happen," he said.
John Ready, a co-owner of Ready Seafood Co., said the effects of warming ocean temperatures on lobsters is already being seen in the Gulf of Maine, and if the trend continues, the crustaceans could seek out deeper, colder water or migrate east. He said it's in the best interest of fisherman, harvesters, sellers and processors to maintain a healthy environment for Maine's lobsters.
"... Many Mainers who make living from sea have their futures at stake," said Richard Grotton, executive director of the Maine Restaurant Association. He said Maine has a tourism based economy, and the health of the lobster population affects retailers, fisherman, restaurants and the whole hospitality industry.
Theberge said climate change is beginning to impact Maine, and the state loves and depends on lobsters.
"We need to take further action to reduce carbon pollution," she said.