Nova Scotia's largest lobster fishery is set to open next week, but there's concern the catch could yield soft shelled lobster and scientists blame warm ocean temperatures.

With at least a thousand boats heading out next week, the quality forecast is closely watched.

Every fall, the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society, monitors lobster from at-sea stations throughout the fishing zone in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Dina Desveaux with the society says for a second year they are predicting lower quality lobster during the first part of the season.

“The water temperatures are warming up so we are expecting soft shelled lobster,” she said. “Why does that matter? Soft shelled lobster are worth less than hard shelled lobster.”

They are worth less because soft shelled lobsters are less likely to survive live shipping to New England or overseas. They are instead sold, for less, as canners.

“They aren't going to be shipping soft lobster. It’s not worth their while. The U.S. market will not accept them.” Desveaux said.

Research biologist Shannon Scott-Tibbits says warmer temperatures have probably pushed back the molt later in the year, resulting in soft shells early in the season.

Good for canners

“Water temperatures do have an effect. They kind of delay the molt,” she said.

John Nickerson is a buyer for Capital Seafoods in Eastern Passage. He predicts 40 per cent of the seasons first catches will be good only for canners, meaning lower prices at the wharf.

“Pricing will have to be at the place where processors will be able to process this quality and make money at it. Where processors sell it without losing money,” he said.

This is just one prediction of quality. Another is that catches will continue to be strong.

As for price in nearby areas where the season is already open, fishermen are getting $4.25 a pound. Whether that price holds, that won’t be known until first landings next week.