HomeOpinionThe Lobsters Will Be Fine, But What About Us?

The Lobsters Will Be Fine, But What About Us?

The good news is that lobsters are set to easily withstand the rigours of climate change in the coming decades.

However, the bad news is that we aren’t.

The Centre for Marine Applied Research (CMAR) recently released a report that leads with some heartening news. According to the research group, climate change over the coming three decades poses a “low to moderate risk” for lobsters off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Given that the predicted temperature changes modelled by CMAR for the upcoming 30 years were part of a “high emission” projection, lobsters should rejoice. As the oceans warm and rise, eating away at the shoreline, our crustacean neighbours will be safe and sound within their optimal temperature threshold.

But what about us on land, especially those of us lucky (or unlucky) enough to live near the sea? Within the pages of CMAR’s report lies another less comforting prediction — we won’t fare as well as the lobsters.

For one, climate change has brought increasingly prevalent and intense extreme weather events with it. Events like Hurricane Fiona, which devastated many in Atlantic Canada in September 2022, are predicted to become more commonplace as our warming oceans provide the fuel needed to see these storms increase in intensity.

Over the last decade alone, harvesters in Southwest Nova Scotia have lost one-third of their fishing days to inclement weather during their winter lobster season. Up on Cape Breton and along the Northumberland Strait, harvesters reported losing around 10 per cent of fishing days to inclement weather. What both parts of the island can agree upon, according to CMAR, is the perception that these weather events that stall Nova Scotia’s most lucrative fishery are increasing in frequency.

Along with losing fishing days, these more frequent and intense storms will see Atlantic Canada’s coastal infrastructure at risk, as well. In all Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) around Nova Scotia, apart from LFAs 25, 26A, 28 and 35 — the latter three lacking appropriate data — fishing infrastructure scored moderate to high levels of vulnerability to the effects of climate change such as coastal erosion, flooding, storm surges, high winds and sea level rise.

Overall, this report spells out an uncertain outlook for the life of a Nova Scotia lobster harvester, or anyone living near the coast, for that matter. The only way to weather the metaphorical and literal storms to come, according to CMAR, is adapt to the new normal that we find ourselves in.

Recommendations by the group introduce more flexibility in the days that make up a given fishing season. Instead of losing days due to extreme weather, DFO could look at reallocating these “lost” days into the latter half of the season.

Coastal infrastructure must also be assessed for its resilience to stand up to the challenges of the future. Whether upgrading existing infrastructure or “building back better” with stronger wharves, coastally located buildings, breakwaters and seawalls, Nova Scotia must have an iron-clad plan to address the losses they stand to incur to the unstoppable force that is Mother Nature.

Finally, the fishing industry doesn’t stand to gain by adding fuel to the fire. While the emissions from the Atlantic Canadian fishery may be a drop in the global carbon bucket, CMAR recommended that the industry perform an about-face and invest in alternative fuels, hybrid propulsion and fully electric engines sooner rather than later.

While there is some level of celebration to be had over the continued existence of a healthy lobster population off the coast of the province, their relative safety in the face of climate change leaves room for us to worry about ourselves.