Cod are a key species on the Atlantic coast, and climate change threatens their numbers in a serious way.
Cod fish is an important commodity in New England. Essential in helping early settlers survive the harsh New England winters and a lasting source of nutrition for generations, cod are a staple in the region similar to lobster or maple syrup.
According to a report from the Washington Post these fish are now in grave danger. A new study warns that the waters off the coast of New England, particularly in the Gulf of Maine, are warming rapidly. This could lead to an all-out collapse of the cod fishery as commercial fishermen snatch up the last remaining generations.
Climate change has caused the sea to do some strange things in New England over the past few years. Boston saw record snowfall last year from coastal storms, and the sea level rose suddenly and extremely between 2009 and 2010.
According to Andrew Pershing, a researcher from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the head author of the recent study which was published in the journal Science, the period from 2004 to 2013 in the Gulf of Maine saw more warming than any other marine ecosystem during that time.
Pershing’s study was carried out with a team from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and scientists from the NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, CO and Stony Brook University in New York.
According to the study, the Gulf of Maine has warmed by 0.23 degrees Celsius per year over the past decade, which is faster than the warming that happened in 99.9 percent of the world’s oceans.
This warming is having a devastating effect on cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine. According to the NOAA, even with strict regulations and limits, the cod stock in the Gulf of Maine is in the worst shape it has been in 40 years. The biggest problem posed by the warm water is the juvenile cods’ inability to withstand higher temperatures. Scientists still are not sure whether the water affects cod directly, or has caused a change in the behavior of their prey or predators, but one thing is clear; their numbers are dwindling fast.
Cod are an essential part of New England’s history, and make up a large chunk of their seafood industry. With their decline, scientists fear that the rest of the northeast Atlantic fishery is not far behind.
A press release from the GMRI outlining the study’s findings can be found here.