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Group warns of threat to Maine’s lobsters

PORTLAND, Maine — A group representing lobster, tourism, conservation, and environmental interests said Tuesday that it is launching a campaign to raise public awareness about climate change that it contends is threatening Maine’s lobster population.

In a press conference on the Portland waterfront, lobster industry advocates said carbon pollution from power plants, cars, and elsewhere is warming up and acidifying waters in the Gulf of Maine.

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Warmer waters drive lobsters to migrate to colder waters and make them more susceptible to disease, while acidified waters hurt lobsters’ ability to form adequate shells, they said.

Emmie Theberge of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said people should support any federal action that will reduce carbon pollution.

‘‘The fact that carbon pollution hurts Maine lobsters should be a concern to all Mainers,’’ she said.

Lobster is Maine’s most valuable fishery. Maine lobstermen last year caught a record 126 million pounds valued at $339 million to fishermen.

Besides Theberge, representatives from the Maine Lobster Council, Ready Seafood Co., the Maine Restaurant Association, and the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center spoke Tuesday about the importance of lobsters to Maine and the threats that put them at risk.

Gulf of Maine ocean temperatures have been rising faster since 2004, said Rick Wahle, a research professor at the Darling Marine Center. The southern New England lobster population has virtually collapsed over the past 15 years, in part because of warmer waters, he said.

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