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Lobster shell disease ugly, but not a problem -- yet -- for Maine

By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com
File/UPI/Lee K. Marriner
File/UPI/Lee K. Marriner | License Photo

A disease affecting the shells of lobsters in Maine has spread five-fold in a decade, causing some worry but not yet impacting the industry.

"Five years ago, we didn't see shell disease," a lobsterman told a gathering at the Main Department of Marine Resources forum in July.

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One out of every thousand lobsters was affected in 2003, when the disease first appeared in Kittery, Maine. In 2013, it had risen to one in 200, according to DMR chief biologist Carl Wilson.

Still, "it is nowhere close to the levels observed in Southern New England, with extremes of 30% in some areas," {link:said DMR lobster scientist Kathleen Reardon. : "http://freepressonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=52&SubSectionID=78&ArticleID=27430" target="_blank" title="FPO"} The disease, in which bacteria rots the lobster's shell, makes the animal unsightly but not inedible. If it gets bad enough, the disease can be lethal, but the problem is usually solved when the lobster sheds its shell.

Scientists believe the disease is caused by warmer water temperature, which is why incidence is more prevalent in southern New England and why it's growing, as a 30-year warming trend is under way and eight of the past 10 years are the warmest on record.

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