Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Warming waters exacerbate dwindling New England fisheries

Scientific American: ….Many fishermen here feel threatened by a sweeping new set of fishing limits imposed this spring by authorities trying to rebuild fish stocks they say are depleted by overfishing and facing pressures that include climate change. Federal fishing regulators have traditionally reacted to falling stocks by putting additional curbs on fishing. But that approach may not work in the face of larger environmental changes such as global warming.

The chief fishing grounds for Massachusetts watermen are Gulf of Maine and the Georges Bank, the most westward of the famous Atlantic fishing banks off the North American coast. They are among the most famous and historically productive fishing grounds in the world; their collapse in the mid-1990s was equally historic, and the debate over how to manage the depleted stocks while nursing them back to health has been hotly contested ever since.

But the arguments are changing as scientists see more evidence of the coming impact of climate change on the Atlantic fisheries. Both the Gulf of Maine and the Georges Bank sit at the southern edge of the cod's preferred range. Fishermen have adapted to stock changes over the years, but their options may be dwindling.

"The question of the influence of fishing and the influence of the environment is tangled up," said Brian Rothschild, a professor of marine science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who has studied aquatic stocks for more than five decades.

"There is no question that as some of the environment changes occur, some of the fish stocks are going to change," he said. "We don't know enough about it to know what's going to increase and what's going to decrease."

That gives a gloomy uncertainty to the future for New England commercial fishermen. There were an estimated 2,000 working fishermen in Gloucester in the 1940s; 50 years later the number had dropped to 400, according to a 1997 study. Fishermen glumly expect their numbers to continue to shrink….

"The Steam Ship President, The Largest in the World. Lieut. Roberts R.N. commander on her last voyage from New York to Liverpool. As last seen from the Packet Ship ORPHEUS Capt. COLE in the terrific gale of March the 12th 1841 ...She was then situated in that dangerous part of the Atlantic Ocean about midway between the Nantucket Shoal and the St. George's Bank, just where the Gulf Stream strikes soundings, and where the waves rise almost straight up & down & as high as a four or five story house...."

No comments: