There has been a lot of hand-wringing over whether the rampant shell disease afflicting the southern New England lobsters has begun to inch its way north to the colder waters of Cape Ann and the rest of the Gulf of Maine.
Pish-posh, say the scientists and local lobstermen.
“It’s really much ado about nothing up in Gloucester and around Cape Ann,” said Bob Glenn, the New Bedford-based chief marine fisheries biologist for the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries. “We’ve had high incidences of shell disease south of Cape Cod since the late ‘90s. That’s really where the problem is, down in southern New England waters where it’s much warmer.”
Glenn said that, on average, as many as 22 percent of the lobsters harvested out of the warmer New England waters south of Cape Cod have contracted the bacteria-induced epizootic shell disease that, at worse, wholly erodes their shells or, at best, leaves their shells covered with unsightly lesions.
“Up around Gloucester, it’s much less, usually 1 percent or less of the lobsters landed,” Glenn said. “The highest we ever saw up there was 3.1 percent in 2003 and 2.2 percent in 2012.”
That’s good news not only for Gloucester lobstermen, but for lobster lovers throughout the region.
That’s because Gloucester, according to the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, is home to more lobstermen (145) and more lobsters landed (2.27 million pounds in 2011) than any other of the Bay State’s 52 ports.
Frank Ciaramitaro, a co-owner of Gloucester’s Capt. Joe & Sons, and Gloucester lobsterman Arthur “Sooky” Sawyer said their practical experience mirrors the statistical evidence provided by Glenn.
“You might see one or two, but there are no alarms going off up here,” Sawyer said.
Ciaramitaro said he believes there are fewer incidences of the disease showing up in lobsters from the waters around Gloucester and Cape Ann than in years past.