Adaptation to climate change in the Maine lobster (Homarus americanus) fishery
Partners: Maine Lobster Association and the Maine Department of Marine Resources Introduction to the problem: The American lobster is a major seafood commodity and supports the most valuable fishery in the US, worth more than $667 million in 2016. Over 5,000 fishermen, their families, and their communities in Maine rely on the lobster fishery as a source of income, employment, and cultural identity. Often, fishermen lack alternative employment opportunities, leaving them sensitive to changes in the abundance and spatial distribution of lobster. Recent studies question the social resilience of Maine’s lobstermen and lobster fishing communities, especially their ability to respond to environmental and social changes, and call for better preparing fishers to adapt to future changes. Changes in the abundance and/or spatial distribution of lobster may impact fishery production and create ripples throughout the regional economic system. Not only are the incomes of lobstermen impacted, but also the incomes of businesses directly related to the seafood supply chain (e.g., bait shops, dealers, and processors) and those indirectly related to the fisher fishery (e.g., restaurants and tourism). Likewise, the population dynamics of American lobster are vulnerable to harvest activities and changes in environmental conditions. Together, this describes a coupled natural-human system vulnerable to environmental changes and the corresponding biological, social, and economic impacts.
Rationale: As the rate of environmental change is predicted to accelerate, alongside the species’ ongoing distributional shifts, there is a growing need to develop predictive capacity for spatio-temporal changes in lobster distribution and resulting socio-economic impacts, and to better prepare fishermen to respond to future change. One of the best ways to adapt to altered marine ecosystems is to improve our ability to forecast biological, social, and economic responses through improved modeling capability. Thus, the overarching goal of this study is to improve our predictive capacity and fishermen’s ability to adapt to environmental changes.
Summary of work: We propose to develop improved and integrated modeling capacity, leveraging new and existing biological, social and economic data, to improve our ability to forecast biological, social and economic responses. Objective 1 (Biological): Project possible changes in spatio-temporal distribution of American lobster along the coast of Maine in a changing Gulf of Maine (GOM); Objective 2 (Economic): Explore the capacity for adaptive behavior by fishermen and quantify the economic impacts under possible changes in the spatio- temporal distribution of American lobster; and Objective 3 (Social): document and identify resilience strategies for lobstermen and their communities facing a changing marine environment.
Relevance: This project addresses several COCA goals. Specifically, the “need to understand key socio-economic challenges affecting fishing communities as well as [the] mechanisms to effectively communicate this information for adaptation planning and management; … build the capacity of fishing communities along the U.S. northeast; [and]… assess socio-economic assess socio-economic risks and impacts of climate-driven changes in marine ecosystems to inform adaptation planning and management decisions.”