In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Tuesday, October 27

The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming bodies of water on the planet. Image via USGS.

  • The Portland Press Herald launched a climate change series this week titled, ”Mayday: Gulf of Maine in Distress,” by staff writer Colin Woodard. In Part 1 of the series, warming ocean temperature fueled by changes in ocean currents are described as the “unseen threat” facing the Gulf of Maine, which recently has seen higher average water temperatures than in the last 150 years. Woodard summarizes the impacts of warming waters on native species such as lobsters and right whales, as well as how increased temperatures have compounded the negative effects of overfishing our commercially important fish species. Additionally, ocean acidification is only making matters worse. As Woodard describes, the Gulf of Maine is oceanographically unique and the features that make it so are also the ones driving changes in the region.
  • Using puffins as an example, Part 2 of the series explains how climate change may be affecting the Gulf of Maine ecosystem from the bottom-up. According to the article, warming ocean temperatures are likely to produce an unsteady supply of Calanus finmarchicus, a keystone copepod species at the bottom of the food chain. Puffin prey species rely on Calanus as a food source, so an unsteady supply will result in impacts up the food chain. Climate change is not the only threat that puffins face; as Woodard addresses, forage fish are also often overfished.
  • In Part 3, Woodard focuses on some of the Gulf of Maine’s iconic cold-water species – cod, lobster, northern shrimp – that are all feeling the effects of warming waters in the region. The combination of higher temperatures and fishing mortality has resulted in dramatic declines for many stocks. The verdict is still out (but also not looking good), however, on migrating species such as Atlantic salmon. Andy Goode of the Atlantic Salmon Federation told PPH that “salmon’s best hope lies in improving riverine habitat, so the fish are as healthy as possible before they go to sea.”
  • The Boston Globe recently joined Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences research scientists on board the Nova Star, a passenger ferry that runs between Portland, ME and Yarmouth, MA. The researchers use the ferry as a vessel as a means to gather water sample data. That data is used to verify NASA satellites tracking the changes in the Gulf of Maine. Senior researcher at the Bigelow Lab William Balch told the Globe, “This is the best way to understand the impact of climate change on the ocean. We call it sea-truthing.”

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