September 26, 2013

New England sees rise in warm-water ocean species

In the past two years, fishermen have seen a noticeable increase in species more commonly found in the mid-Atlantic.

By CLARKE CANFIELD The Associated Press

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Fishermen are seeing greater numbers of ocean sunfish in Gulf of Maine waters. Sunfish are most often found in warmer water, and prolonged periods spent in water at temperatures of 54 degrees or lower can lead to disorientation and eventual death, experts say.

NOAA photo

Those that made it to New England would typically die in years past when the waters got cold in the winter, he said, but more of them are now surviving because of the temperatures.

A study written by Fogarty and other researchers that appeared in the journal Science this month concludes that climate change has resulted in shifts in where and at what depths many marine species are found throughout U.S. and Canadian waters. The shifts have not been uniform and are most likely caused by local climate conditions.

As the fish migrate, fishermen will need to adapt with new fishing gear or new approaches to harvesting the commercially valuable species, said Jon Hare, a fisheries oceanographer at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's laboratory in Narragansett, R.I.

Regulators are going to have to figure out how best to manage the fish. And scientists are going to have to answer new questions on the changing ecosystem as shifting distribution patterns result in a new mingling of species.

After seeing so many changes the past couple of years, fishermen are asking themselves what's next.

"I guess we'll have to see what happens and adapt, but who knows?" Cousens said. "I don't really know what the answer is. I know I can't snap my fingers and change anything."

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