Island and coastal communities are on the front line of environmental changes associated with climate change and ocean acidification. Across New England, fishermen and scientists are observing notable shifts in the ecosystem and dramatic changes in the number of fish in the water. Years of harvesting pressure paired with the effects of warming waters and an ever-changing ocean ecosystem have led to the crisis we currently face in the groundfish fishery. Other fisheries such as lobster and shrimp are also grappling with shifting environmental conditions. Scientists, managers, and fishermen have all begun to discuss how we can and should be planning for the unpredictable, impacts these shifts will have on the marine environment and the communities that depend on the ocean resources.
We do this by:
- Helping fishermen and communities document the environmental shifts being seen;
- Helping communities and fisheries managers understand the shifts they are seeing in the broader context of a changing Gulf of Maine by convening conversations with multiple perspectives from fishermen, scientists, and managers;
- Helping fishermen and communities communicate these shifts to policy makers whose decisions could be informed by their input;
- Helping fishermen develop more resilient fishing businesses so that they can better withstand shifts in the ecosystem.
A Climate of Change Workshop
During the summer of 2013, the Island Institute hosted a two-day climate change workshop focusing on the state of science and fishermen’s observations from an ecosystem perspective. Scientists, policy makers, and resource harvesters discussed how new and proposed management strategies could be effective in the face of climate change. What came out of the workshop was a comprehensive report detailing issues, observations, and suggested next steps.
Predictive Capabilities Workshop
The Island Institute hosted a workshop in December, 2014, co-hosted with the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Maine Lobstermen’s Association, and Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. Read the full report and individual presentations.
In addition to the report, a new video series was produced which highlights threatened fishing communities in Maine, Alaska, and Florida - and what they’re doing to adapt to these inevitable changes.
Part 1: Warming Waters in the Gulf of Maine
Scientists, managers, and fishermen have all begun to discuss how we can and should be planning for the inevitable, but unpredictable, climate impacts on the marine ecosystem.
Part 2: Ocean Acidification in Alaska
Ocean acidification is a global problem, but its impact is being felt first and felt hardest in the Arctic. The state of Maine is looking towards Alaska and seeking to take a lesson from the experiences of fishermen there.
Part 3: Collapse and Adapatation in the Apalachicola Oyster Fishery
In early 2014, Mainers traveled to Apalachicola, Florida, once home to one of the most valuable oyster fisheries in the country, to see what happens when a fishery collapses completely and what the community is doing to adapt and revitalize itself.
The state panel studying ocean acidification released its final report in January, 2015.
Shell-forming species in Maine’s coastal waters, such as clams, mussels, oysters, and lobsters, are at risk due to ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a term used to describe the changing chemistry of the ocean caused primarily by uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. This oceanic uptake of CO2 has direct consequences on ocean chemistry, leading to decreases in pH and lower calcium carbonate saturation in surface waters, which together are referred to as ocean acidification. While the pH of the ocean had held stable at 8.2 for over 600,000 years, in the last 200 years its pH has dropped to 8.1. This may not sound like a big change, but the pH scale is logarithmic and as a result, each whole pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. Predictions of declines of surface pH from present-day levels of 8.1 to 7.8-7.7 over the next century raise questions about impacts on the long-term viability of fisheries.
To discuss ocean acidification, please contact:
Susie Arnold, Marine Scientist