Advertisement

Climate change risk low to moderate for billion-dollar Nova Scotia lobster fishery, study says

Harvesters kept off the water by storms also said they expect severe weather caused by climate change to continue. (CBC - image credit)
Harvesters kept off the water by storms also said they expect severe weather caused by climate change to continue. (CBC - image credit)

According to a new climate change vulnerability assessment of the billion-dollar Nova Scotia lobster fishery, warming temperatures over the next three decades pose a low to moderate risk for lobsters.

"The cumulative outcome suggests that the provincial lobster fishery is largely not at high risk," says the Centre for Applied Marine Research (CMAR).

The provincial government agency undertook the assessment as part of adaptation planning for a key industry. Seafood is Nova Scotia's largest export with lobster accounting for nearly two thirds of landed value. Seafood landings were valued at $1.65 billion in 2021

In measuring lobster vulnerability, CMAR projected how ocean temperatures could warm in lobster fishing areas around Nova Scotia.

Average bottom and surface temperatures during the warmest month predicted for 2055 remained within optimal temperature thresholds for the species, the report said.

"Average temperatures are still within the ranges that different life stages of lobsters can withstand," CMAR director Gregor Reid told CBC News.

Gregor Reid is director of the Centre for Applied Marine Research.
Gregor Reid is director of the Centre for Applied Marine Research.

Gregor Reid is director of the Centre for Applied Marine Research. (CBC)

An exception is the Northumberland Strait where juveniles could be exposed to temperatures above their optimal range.

Lobster stocks are considered healthy in all harvesting areas.

Fishing days lost due to bad weather

The assessment included face-to-face surveys with 300 lobster fishermen across the province and looked at problems faced by the industry including fishing days lost due to bad weather..

Fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia lost one-third of fishing days due to bad weather during the past five to 10 years, and said they expected the trend is likely to continue.

That's not surprising given their fishery takes place in winter and often further from shore.

Fishermen in northeast Cape Breton and along the Northumberland Strait reported losing less than 10 per cent of fishing days.

Adapting to bad weather

Factoring in the impact of bad weather caused by climate change — with predictions of more frequent and severe storms — should be part of adaptation, Rein said.

"As we move forward in the future we have to start considering more things like vessel safety, emergency response, design around vessels, flexibility and fishing dates. And I think they're doing a good job with that already in terms of days and seasons," he said.

Half of respondents said climate change is one of the top threats to the fishery.

They were also asked how much income loss it would take to get them to stop fishing.

Fishermen in six of nine lobster fishing areas — including the largest districts in southwestern Nova Scotia — said they would stay in it with half the money.

"It suggests either a great commitment to this activity or that it's at least financially rewarding enough to kind of weather the storm, so to speak, for the short term," said Reid.

MORE TOP STORIES