The odds are growing even stronger that this year’s prime lobster season will start extremely early, researchers said Thursday.

In an updated forecast, researchers at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute said an extremely early start – a month or more before the typical start of the first week of July – is now 68 percent likely. That’s up from a 53 percent likelihood in the last forecast, issued on March 16.

The chance of a very early start – around June 19 to June 26, is now pegged at 31 percent, the researchers said. The chance of an early start between June 26 and July 3 is just 1 percent and there’s no chance of a normal or late start, the researchers forecast.

The researchers base their projections on water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, which have been running well above normal this winter, one of the warmest on record for most of the eastern United States.

Lobsters spend their winters in deeper water and move toward shallower waters, where most lobster traps are located, as waters warm in the early summer. The warmer waters also cause lobsters to shed their shells, become more active and eat more, increasing the chances they will be trapped.

GMRI researchers liken the conditions this year to those in 2012, when the season kicked off extremely early.

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