Friday, October 30, 2015

Rapidly Warming Waters Have Thwarted Efforts to Save the Cod

This image shows cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine. (Credit: Gulf of Maine Research Institute) Click to Enlarge.
The number of Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine has hit an all-time low in recent years despite strong fishing regulations, and scientists now attribute it to rapidly rising water temperatures, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Sea surface temperatures have increased in the Gulf of Maine faster than almost anywhere else in the world, causing the cold-water species that had already been decimated by centuries of overfishing to reach the verge of collapse.

Strict quotas placed on New England’s cod fishery in 2010 were implemented to increase their numbers, but the limits failed to take into account rising water temperatures.

"Our management forecasts were failing because we were not accounting for this very rapid change in temperature," said Andrew Thomas, an oceanographer at the University of Maine and a co-author of the study.
Cod numbers have dropped as temperatures have risen in the Gulf of Maine (Credit: Paul Horn/InsideClimteNews) Click to Enlarge.
Satellite data that recorded daily changes in sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Maine show that the water warmed by 1.8 degrees from 1982 to 2013, with most of the warming occurring from 2004 to 2013 when temperatures in the Gulf of Maine increased 77 times faster than the global average.
The incredibly fast rate of warming in the waters off  New England is largely due to a northward shift in the Gulf Stream, an ocean current bringing warm water up from the tip of Florida.  The change in the Gulf Stream limits the amount of cold water coming into the Gulf of Maine from the north.

Warming waters in the region led to a decline in the number of young cod as well as a reduction in the number of fish that reach adulthood.  

Elsewhere, however, cod numbers are increasing as a result of climate change.

Estimates of Cod in the Barents Sea off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia show a doubling of the population in recent years.  The increase in what is the largest Atlantic cod fishery in the world is due in part to rising temperatures, which have increased by 2.7 degrees since the late 1970s, according to a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more at Rapidly Warming Waters Have Thwarted Efforts to Save the Cod


  1. Herrings are not coming in the Fundy Bay as they used to, whales are changing their migrating patterns too, at least from the point of view of Grand Manan Islanders.

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