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In LOBSTER WAR, climate-changed ocean temperatures shift New England's lobster fishery across national boundaries, sparking international tension.

The Fight Over the World's Richest Fishing Grounds



The buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is warming the oceans, and the waters off New England's coast are seeing some of the most dramatic temperature increases on the planet. This is having a major effect on lobster populations and the fishermen who rely on them. The southern New England lobster fishery has collapsed and the catch has moved north into cooler waters.

LOBSTER WAR documents an escalating conflict between the United States and Canada over waters that both countries have claimed since the end of the Revolutionary War.

The disputed 277 square miles of sea known as the Gray Zone — the swath of water surrounding Machias Seal Island at the entrance to the Bay of Fundy — were traditionally fished by US lobstermen. But as the Gulf of Maine has warmed lobsters have migrated north and the Gray Zone's previously modest lobster population has surged. As a result, Canadians have begun to assert their sovereignty in the area, contesting American claims to the bounty and foreshadowing potential conflicts exacerbated by climate change.

Other films by David Abel and Andy Laub are Sacred Cod and Gladesmen: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys.

74 minutes
SDH Captioning for the Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing

Directed by David Abel
Produced by David Abel, Andy Laub
Editor: Andy Laub
Cinematography: Andy Laub, David Abel
Composer: Andy Laub


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Rob Conery, Cape Cod Times

"Tackles global issues...[Is] emblematic of the coming conflicts caused by manmade global warming in miniature."
Dennis Perkins, Portland Press Herald

"Climate change, increased lobster populations and a centuries-old land dispute have created a perfect storm...[Lobster War] explores how this conflict came about and why it may only get worse as temperatures continue to rise across the world."
Matt Juul, Metro Boston

"Tackle[s] the all-important question of our age, namely how humanity and nature can co-exist in a period of insurmountable capitalist contradiction, especially when humanity takes the form of small businesspeople hoping to exploit natural resources under duress."
Louis Proyect, CounterPunch

"Fair-minded yet charged and beautifully made...Compels us to consider the dispute as symptomatic of the much larger struggle facing all of us: adapting to climate change, whether individually or nationally, economically, or socially. This is not a problem we can fix by drawing lines on a map, because we're all in the same boat."
Lincoln Paine, Trustee, Maine Maritime Museum, Author, Down East: An Illustrated History of Maritime Maine

"Provides a microcosm of the issues facing humanity in the next decade: climate change, dwindling resources, and international conflict. It is an important film for anybody who wants to understand the interplay between fisheries and climate change."
Joshua M. Smith, Author, Borderland Smuggling: Patriots, Loyalists, and Illicit Trade in the Northeast and Battle for the Bay: The Naval War of 1812

"Engaging...Lobster War gives a personal window on the daily lives of the hard working fishermen and their families, on and off the water, and does so by balancing perspectives from both sides. By weaving in the science behind the impacts of a warming climate, the documentary brings into focus the broader challenges facing coastal communities and their working waterfronts as they confront the uncertainties of a changing marine ecosystem."
Richard Wahle, Director, Lobster Institute, Research Professor, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine

"Lobster War presents a complex argument from a variety of viewpoints, going well beyond the particulars of this one case to provide an overall perspective on the biological, economic, political, and sociocultural features of the Northeast lobster industry."
James Acheson, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Author, The Lobster Gangs of Maine

"Through the work and lives of fishing families and scientists, this film tells compelling stories about the impacts of climate change."
Bonnie McCay, Professor Emerita of Human Ecology, Rutgers University

"Brings awareness to a significant conflict that remains unknown to many. This is a valuable educational tool on a broad range of important issues linking maritime border disputes and unresolved geopolitical tensions to the impacts of climate change on the marine environment and human coastal communities."
Tarsila Seara, Assistant Professor of Marine Affairs, University of New Haven

"Wonderful personal interviews...An in depth look at the lobster's journey from catch to table. This documentary does a beautiful job of encapsulating all of the issues at hand within the Machias Seal Island waters and what is personally at stake for all those involved."
Ken Severance-Camo, New Hampshire Film Festival

"A poignant portrayal of the high stakes that emerge when unresolved boundary disputes, the effects of global warming, and the deep grip of occupational tradition collide...By putting a human face on the lobster's ecological fate, Lobster War casts all of us as stakeholders in the crustacean's future, just as much as the American and Canadian families that rely on it for their livelihood."
Michael Chiarappa, Professor of History, Quinnipiac University

"Climate change, thriving lobster abundance, maritime boarder disputes - Lobster War tells compelling stories about how international conflicts have been created and why they may escalate in the future."
Jie Cao, Assistant Professor of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University
"Offers an ominous and timely preview of how a warming world threatens to undermine fishery management regimes and spark international tensions, not only between the United States and Canada, but around the world."
Kimberly Oremus, Assistant Professor of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware


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