Friday, 6 September 2013

Lobster Shell Disease Expanding North: One of Several Diseases of Marine Organisms Causing Worry

Sep. 3, 2013 — Recent reports that lobster shell disease has turned up along the coast of Maine have Kathy Castro worried. The University of Rhode Island fisheries scientist has led a 15-year international effort to understand what causes the disease that has, until recently, been confined primarily to the waters of southern New England and Long Island Sound. If it expands as rapidly in Maine as it did in Rhode Island waters, it could have a dramatic effect on the iconic Maine fishery.

Castro was the first to notice the disease in 1996, and by 1998 nearly 18 percent of lobsters in Rhode Island waters were infected.

"By 2010, a third of all lobsters had shell disease, and the scary part was that 70 percent of females with eggs had it," she said. "That scared me because that's the reproducing population."

With a $3 million federal appropriation secured by Senator Jack Reed in 2005, Castro assembled a team of geneticists, behaviorists, microbiologists, chemists and others from 15 research institutions to conduct 14 different research projects designed to learn as much as they could about the disease.

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