Warming of the seas is changing the marine ecology of the Gulf of Maine, USA

The Guardian reports, 3rd September 2014: “Imagine Cape Cod without cod. Maine without lobster. The region’s famous rocky beaches invisible, obscured by constant high waters. It’s already starting to happen. The culprit is the warming seas — and in particular the Gulf of Maine, whose waters are heating up faster than 99% of the world’s oceans, scientists say.

Long-established species of commercial fish, like cod, herring and northern shrimp, are departing for colder waters. Black sea bass, blue crabs and new species of squid — all highly unusual for the gulf — are turning up in fishermen’s nets.

Maine lobster

Diane Cowan reads a caliper while measuring a juvenile lobster on the shore of Friendship Long Island, Maine.
Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP

The Gulf of Maine’s warming reflects broader trends around the North Atlantic. But the statistic — accepted by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — underscores particular fears about the gulf’s unique ecosystem and the lucrative fishing industries it supports for three US states and two Canadian provinces.

Its historical chill and strong tidal currents, which mix the waters and increase nutrients, make the Gulf of Maine one of the most productive marine ecosystems and a key summer territory for rare whales. But half of 36 fish stocks studied in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, including many commercial species, have been shifting northward over the past 40 years, a 2009 NOAA report said.

The changes threaten a three-state industry valued at more than $1bn in 2012, a year in which fishermen caught more than 550m pounds, NOAA statistics say. Governments are reacting by creating new commercial fisheries; Maine regulators are in the process of creating a licensing process for black sea bass, a species associated more with the mid-Atlantic.

Source: The Guardian, 3rd September 2014. For the full text, see www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/03/maine-lobster-and-cape-cod-under-threat-from-rapidly-warming-seas

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