Maine lobster season forecast to start 'very' to 'extremely' early

Published on
March 11, 2016

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute is predicting a “very” to “extremely” early start to the lobster season in Maine, based on warmer water temperature readings due to a mild winter.

The institute is forecasting a 47 percent chance the season will start three weeks earlier than normal and a 50 percent chance it will start two week early. That may mean Maine lobstermen will hit their high-landings period as early as mid-June.

“So far, this has been one of the mildest winters ever in New England. December was 11.4°F above normal, making it the warmest December in Maine by almost 5°. January was 6.1°F above normal — warm, but not quite record-setting. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting that mild conditions will prevail into the spring,” said GMRI chief scientific officer Andy Pershing in an update on GMRI’s website.

The predicted early opening appears to be following a similar pattern to the 2012 season, when the high season for lobster arrived three to four weeks early in the Gulf of Maine, causing problems in the supply chain as a sudden influx of soft-shell lobster (shedders) pushed prices down and overwhelmed processing facilities.

The GMRI’s predictive service for the lobster industry was instituted following the 2012 season and is designed to provide “lead time that may be needed to implement strategies to buffer any negative impacts of an early shift to the high-landings period,” according to its website.

"The big lesson we learned from 2012 is that the weather system has the potential to do really weird things and we need to have ability to monitor and hopefully predict and warn the industry that these strange things are going on," Pershing told SeafoodSource. "We're hoping to bring a little bit more of a statistical robustness to augment fishermen’s experience out on the water. By putting this out there as a clear, quantitative prediction that has scientific support makes it easier for the lobster industry to make decisions, whether it's working with their bank over the timing of loan payments, or getting a company thinking about when it runs a promotion."

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