The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) released its first lobster forecast of 2015 today, citing a 69% chance that the beginning of the summer harvest would arrive later than normal. The forecast will be updated weekly and be made available on the institute’s website.
“July 4 is typically considered to be a normal start date for the lobster fishery in Maine,” said Christina Hernandez, GMRI research assistant. “If the timing is off by just a few weeks, it can have a major impact on the market.”
In 2012, warm water temperatures caused Maine lobsters to move inshore earlier than normal, kicking off the high-landings period in the fishery three weeks early. As the supply chain was not ready for this influx, product backed up and the price of lobster collapsed.
“We hope that our forecast will stabilize prices by helping buyers, processors, and dealers to be ready for the product when lobstermen start hauling it in,” said Kathy Mills, GMRI associate research scientist.
GMRI built the forecast model with funding from NASA. It uses historical lobster landings and temperature data from the Gulf of Maine to predict the start date for the season. The model currently shows a 31 percent chance that the season will start on time, a 36 percent chance it will start a week late, a 31 percent chance it will start two weeks late, and a 2 percent chance it will start three weeks late.
The year that is most analogous to the current forecast is 2005. The delayed start to the season that year caused total annual landings to be lower and prices to be higher than in normal years.
While the current forecast leans strongly in favor of a late harvest, extreme fluctuations in inshore water temperatures may yet change the outcome.
“We started out January at near-record warm temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, and there is still a large amount of warm water offshore,” said Andrew Pershing, GMRI chief scientific officer. “If circulation patterns bring the warm water into the inshore region, we could see temperatures warm up quickly and bring an early start to the busiest time of the year for lobstering.”
See the weekly forecast at www.gmri.org/lobster-forecast.