Can RI’s new climate change law reverse the decline in lobster population? Not exactly, expert says

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Gov. Dan McKee signed a sweeping climate change bill into law earlier this year that requires the state to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and it’s terms may have lasting impacts on the Ocean State, especially when it comes to seafood.

University of Rhode Island Oceanography Professor Jeremy Collie tells 12 News that if actions are actually taken to meet the net-zero goal, climate projections show a slight slowing in the decline of certain cold-water species native to the state, including lobster.

“We can’t reverse it, but we can stabilize it,” Collie said of the recent decline in the lobster population.

Collie said after 2050 is when dramatic shifts could occur, which is why he said it’s critical to get into the best starting position possible.

“So 2050 is a good interim target because that’s when things will really diverge, and that’s sort of our planning horizon,” he said.

With the lobster population on the decline, Collie said lobstermen have turned to species that can tolerate warmer water such as the Jonah crab, which has seen a population increase over the past several years.

But Collie said if the changing climate continues to go unchecked, the addition of some species won’t be able to keep up with the loss of others.

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