Shell disease impacts lobster fishery
When diners sit down to a lobster dinner, they look forward to seeing a glistening red shell that tempts them to dig underneath — not a speckled, scabby brown crust thin enough to poke a fork through.
That’s why wholesalers pay less for lobsters with shell disease and why many fishermen will just throw a lobster back if it is diseased. By the time the lobster is caught again, hopefully, it will have molted and grown a smooth new shell.
No one knows precisely what causes lobster shell disease, a bacterial infection that does not affect the meat and seems to strike mainly in the warm coastal waters off Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. Though it is unlikely to pose a threat to the heart of the industry farther north, researchers are trying to understand why these crustaceans get sick and what, if anything, can be done to protect them.
Scientists at the New England Aquarium are concerned that the combination of warmer waters and human-generated pollution are triggering the disease, and that the same combination of effects might threaten other species.