Lobsters could provide a warning sign regarding the effects of climate change in the ocean, according to a scientist.
Liette Vasseur, a climate change scientist at Brock University, says that as temperatures rise in the ocean, lobster growth seems to be affected.
Vasseur spoke at the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society's annual meeting in Truro, N.S., last weekend and said ocean conditions are changing faster than expected.
"What to expect for the lobster? It may benefit at the beginning in terms of faster growth due to warmer temperatures," she said.
But if the trend continues, she warned, the water could get too warm, altering the lobster habitat.
"They [lobsters] have to spend way more in terms of respiration, heart rate — meaning they have less energy for feeding and less energy for growth and reproduction," she said.
"So it has a balance and there is kind of a tipping point."
A warmer habitat would affect food supplies, predators, disease organisms and the metabolism of a lobster.
Vasseur's research shows water temperatures rising almost a decade earlier than expected.
She told the conference about the need to plan for seas with changing currents, more frequent storms, and higher tides — which will demand more robust boats, bigger wharves and stronger breakwaters.
There is no certainty regarding when a tipping point might occur, but Vasseur said the processes have already begun, and fishermen and scientists should watch lobsters as an indicator of climate change.