An updated forecast points to an even stronger likelihood that Maine’s lobster season is going to get off to a very early start.

The forecast from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, updated Thursday, said there’s a 47 percent chance of an “extremely early start,” defined as beginning as early as June 12. The lobstering season typically kicks into high gear after July 4.

A “very early start,” defined as beginning around June 19, has a likelihood of 50 percent, the institute said, and an “early start” of around June 26 has a likelihood of 3 percent. The institute said there’s virtually no chance of a normal or late start to the season for Maine’s most valuable fishery.

The initial projections for the season, released last week, said there was a 55 percent chance of an “extremely early start;” a 41 percent chance of a “very early start;” and a 4 percent chance of an “early start.” The forecast will be updated weekly until late April.

The GMRI issued its first annual forecast for the lobstering season last year, when it correctly predicted a normal-to-late start for the season. The institute says it has run its formula for the forecast for prior years back to 2002 and came up with accurate predictions most of the time, particularly for years when there has been an early start to the season.

GMRI bases its projections in large part on sea water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. As waters warm, lobsters move in from deeper waters, where they spend the winter, toward shallower inland waters, where most lobster traps are located. The lobsters also shed their shells, become more active and are hungrier, increasing the chances they will be trapped and the season is underway.

Seawater temperatures have been running well above normal all this winter, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said has been the warmest on record for the U.S. The GMRI pointed out that long-range forecasts call for a very warm spring, increasing the likelihood that water temperatures will remain high.

GMRI researchers said conditions this year are similar to those in 2012, when the season kicked off extremely early and the catch jumped sharply, depressing prices all summer long. Industry officials have said that advance word of an early start to the season can lessen the chance of a repeat by preparing markets. They also said there are more lobster processors in Maine than there were in 2012 and they, too, can be ready to buy lobsters in June if they know the season is starting early.

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