This spring, GMRI released its first official lobster forecast of 2015, predicting a slightly later start to the summer harvest. July 4 is typically considered to be a normal start date for the lobster fishery in Maine. If the timing is off by just a few weeks, it can have a major impact on the market.
In 2012, warm water temperatures caused Maine lobsters to move inshore earlier than normal, kicking off the high-landings period in the fishery three weeks early. As the supply chain was not ready for this influx, supply exceeded demand and the price of lobster collapsed.
“We hope that our forecast will stabilize prices by helping buyers, processors, and dealers to be ready for the product when lobstermen start hauling it in,” said Kathy Mills, GMRI associate research scientist.
GMRI researchers built the forecast model with funding from NASA. It uses historical lobster landings and temperature data from the Gulf of Maine to predict the start date for the season.
Based on evaluation of model performance using data from past years, the accuracy of the model is greatest in mid-April. The official forecast, released on April 15th, shows a 35% chance that the season will start on time, a 43% chance it will start a week late, and a 20% chance it will start two weeks late. The year that is most analogous to the forecast is 2005. The delayed start to the season that year caused total annual landings to be lower and prices to be higher than in normal years.
“We started out January at near record warm temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, but cooled rapidly in February,” said Andrew Pershing, GMRI chief scientific officer. The extremely cold and snowy February, which brought temperatures from near-record warm to the coldest temperature recorded since 2001 at the buoys that are being used for this project, led to the forecast for a late year.
See the official forecast at www.gmri.org/lobster-forecast