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Gulf of Maine Warming is "Sneak Preview" of Future Global Climate Conditions

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Scientists say the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans. (Adobe Stock)
Scientists say the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans. (Adobe Stock)
 By Nadia Ramlagan - Producer, Contact
October 7, 2019

PORTLAND, Maine — As much of the East Coast experiences unseasonably warm fall temperatures, scientists studying the Gulf of Maine point to its rapid warming as a "sneak preview" of what climate change might mean for other parts of the globe.

Chief Scientific Officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute Andrew Pershing said a few years ago, he and colleagues determined the Gulf was heating up faster than 99% of the world's oceans.

"We're warming at about four times the global ocean average,” Pershing said. “And so, that means we're kind of getting a sneak preview of some of the conditions that we expect later in this century that other ecosystems are going to see down the line."

Pershing said scientists studying the Gulf of Maine have an opportunity to come up with solutions to mitigate the effects of warming oceans, and then export those ideas to other regions that will likely be facing them in the next few decades.

He added the warming Gulf is affecting a rice-grain-sized zooplankton known as calanus finmarchicus that's at the center of the marine food web.

"Calanus declining is a really good sign that we're seeing an ecosystem that's switching from one that's more subarctic and subpolar into an ecosystem that's more temperate,” Pershing said.

Lobster fisheries in the Gulf of Maine are some of the most valuable in the United States. Pershing said in recent years, the Gulf's warming has swelled the lobster population and increased catches. But he said there’s a catch.

“It's contributed to the decline of lobsters and essentially the collapse of the fisheries in Southern New England,” he said. “And so, we're really looking towards the future to say, 'At what point are we going to hit perhaps a tipping point and start to see catches decline here in Maine?'"

According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, fishermen brought in almost a half-billion dollars in lobster landings in 2018.

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