Climate change is decimating Maine's lobster population

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Lobster From Maine: Flavor and Fishing Rules

Seafood addicts don't need yet another reason to loathe climate change, and now a pair of reports warn that saltwater diseases are just loving these warmer ocean temperatures, and unfortunately at least one has a taste for lobster.

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The new studies suggest sea stars have it the worst — they're being plagued by a wasting disease that morphs them into "goo" within days — and divers in the San Juan Islands who used to find dozens on every dive now don't see any. Lobsters, though, are apparently contracting a shell disease that gives them lesions and, at best, makes them unfit for eating.

See photos of Maine's lobster trade:

Maine Lobsters
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Climate change is decimating Maine's lobster population
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2015, file photo, a lobster boat heads out to sea at sunrise, off Kennebunkport, Maine. Some of the state's lobstermen are staying out on the water later in the year because of the warm winter weather. The result is that lobster is easy to come by at the market. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
In this Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, photo, live lobsters are packed for overseas shipment at the Maine Lobster Outlet in York, Maine. Lobsters are a Christmas tradition in several European countries, where supermarkets rely on the crustaceans to draw shoppers around the holidays. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
In this Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, photo, a rubber band used to keep handlers safe marks a lobster caught in American waters at the Maine Lobster Outlet in York, Maine. Exporters say lobster shipments to European countries like France, Italy and Spain are down because of the strong dollar and a less-than-festive economy overseas. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
In this Tuesday, July 29, 2014 photo, a lobsterman displays the tail flipper of a V-notched female lobster while fishing off Monhegan Island, Maine. V-notching is a mandatory practice in which Maine lobstermen mark an egg-bearing lobster on its tail before returning it to the water. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Brandon Demmons measures the carapace, the shell of the lobster, to determine if the crustacean is within the legal size limits while working as a sternman aboard aboard a lobster fishing boat off of Monhegan Island, Maine, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
In this Friday, June 20, 2014 photo, claws from lobster shipped to Maine from Canada are processed at the Sea Hag Seafood processing plant in St. George, Maine. A $7 million bond referendum would provide money for new and expanding businesses. Maine processors say the business is growing, but is still overshadowed by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
In this Friday, June 20, 2014 photo, Kyle Murdoch, president and CEO of Sea Hag Seafood, poses outside his processing plant in St. George, Maine. State officials and lobster industry leaders are working to bring more lobster meat processing back to the state from Canada. Maine processors say the business is growing, but is still overshadowed by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
FILE-In this undated file photo, a sternman holds a lobster caught off South Bristol, Maine. California has its raisins, Florida has its oranges and Massachusetts has its cranberries. In the coming months, a new marketing strategy will be launched that aims to bolster the brand and sales of Maine lobster.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
FILE-In this file photo made Thursday, June 28, 2012, Paula Coppersmith poses with a lobster at Dock's Seafood restaurant and market in South Portland, where they were selling five lobsters for $24. State officials say Maine's lobster catch surged 18 percent in 2012 for another record, but a summer glut caused the value of the state's signature seafood to drop. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, file)
Marc Pelletier, of Biddeford, Maine, scrapes barnacles off the propeller cage of the Emilee Savannah, a lobster boat he works on as a sternman, Friday, May 17, 2013, at Camp Ellis in Saco, Maine. The 34-foot fishing boat was beached in order to scrape and paint the hull during low tide in preparation for the upcoming lobstering season. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
HOLD FOR STORY MOVING JULY 16 FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2012 file photo lobsterman Norman Haynes loads traps onto a trailer at sunrise in Falmouth, Maine. State lobster biologist Carl Wilson said the state's 2014 lobster season is off to a slow start, due to the cold winter and spring that likely held back molting. Lobster season typically picks up after the bulk of the population sheds its shells and grows to legal harvesting size. In 2013 that occurred in late June. But it hasnât yet happened this year, meaning smaller catches. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
In this photo made Thursday, August 2, 2012, Maggy Mulhern, left, and Katharine Mead, prepare a lobster bake for dinner on the shore of a small island in Penobscot Bay Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
PORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 29: Small lobsters sit in a crate waiting to be unloaded at Free Range Fish & Lobster on Commercial Street in Portland, Tuesday, September 29, 2015. Much like most of the lobster season, it was busy Tuesday afternoon inside the business, with many customers placing orders for the crustaceans. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
STONINGTON, ME - SEPTEMBER 5: Genevieive McDonald replaces a bait bag in a lobster trap while fishing off the coast of Stonington on September 5, 2015. In 2012, McDonald saw dozens of longfin squid near Isle au Haut. The squid like warmer water and are rarely seen in the Gulf of Maine but there were numerous sightings of the squid during the 'ocean heat wave' of 2012. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
HARPSWELL, ME - AUGUST 31: Marissa McMahan holds a juvenile lobster in Lowell's Cove in Harpswell on Monday, August 31, 2015. While lobstering with father off Georgetown in 2012, McMahan discovered black sea bass in the lobster traps, a fish normally found in warmer mid-Atlantic waters. McMahan is now a doctoral student at Northeastern University doing her dissertation on how black sea bass are spreading and interacting with with lobster and other native species. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
OGUNQUIT, ME - AUGUST 20: Cam Hall puts a bag of cooked lobsters into a cooler mounted on the back of a scooter at the Perkins Cove Lobster Pound in Ogunquit on Thursday, August 20, 2015. The lobster pound uses coolers to help keep the cooked lobsters warm during delivery. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
OGUNQUIT, ME - AUGUST 20: Josh Audet paddles out to his lobster boat Karmel in Perkins Cove in Ogunquit before dawn on Thursday, August 20, 2015. Audet works long days, starting lobstering before dawn and often working until 9 p.m. at the Perkins Cove Lobster Pound, his business that offers delivery of cooked lobster and clams. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - JULY 22: Bill Coppersmith of Windham holds a normal looking lobster next to a bright orange lobster that he caught while fishing in deepwater canyons in the Gulf of Maine with his steersman Brian Skillings Wednesday, July 22, 2015. Coppersmith said he has never seen an orange lobster like this in many years of fishing, though he did snag a white lobster in 1997. Coppersmith named him 'Captain Eli' after his four-year old grandson. The lobster will be kept at the Fisherman's Catch in Raymond, run by Coppersmith's son, Billy Jr., for about a month before Coppersmith brings him back out to deep water and releases him back into the ocean. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - March 5: A lobster at Harbor Fish Market in Portland Thursday, March 5, 2015. (Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster: Either way you want 'em. (Steve Dolinsky/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CAPE ELIZABETH, ME - JUNE 29: Lobster is featured at several local restaurants at the Taste of Maine event held at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth Sunday, June 29, 2014. (Photo by Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
A gull swims back to shore to feast on a lobster body at Pine Point in Scarborough on Saturday, July 27, 2013. (Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

The future isn't rosy for either creature. Per the Washington Post:

The outbreaks are so lethal, according to a biologist involved in both studies, that at least one species of sea star has vanished off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia and the lobster fishery, already decimated in southern New England, will likely be threatened in Maine.

Scientists first observed the disease affecting lobsters in the '90s, off the Long Island Sound and elsewhere along the East Coast. It seems warmer waters hastened its spread, with females especially at risk because they molt more often and carry their shells longer.

"Shell disease has devastated the southern New England lobster fishery, and now with warming, it's led to a situation where the Maine lobster industry may be at risk," one of the study's co-authors warns.

Scientists aren't sure what actions to recommend taking, since about all they can do at this point is try not to make things worse, but they say they'll reassess the situation in the spring. If it's bad enough, don't be surprised to see calls in New England to further curb water pollution, boat traffic, and other modes of transmission in affected areas.

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