Rise in Sea Temp Affects Maine Sealife, Fishermen

Puffin, photo courtesy Wkimedia Commons.

According to an article by the Island Institute’s Director of Marine Programs Dr. Heather Deese and Maine Sea Grant Communications Coordinator Catherine Schmitt, the record-breaking temperatures of 2010 had a dramatic affect on marine life in the Gulf of Maine.

The period from January to August 2010 was the warmest on record for the state of Maine and the Northeast overall, states the article. Further, “the extended period of warmer atmospheric conditions likely contributed to higher-than-normal water temperatures, which may in turn have contributed to record-high lobster catches, record-low herring catches, and record-low breeding success for Maine’s seabirds.”

Data from a NOAA buoy 12 nautical miles southeast of Portland showed that coastal water temperatures were 3 to 9 degrees (F) above the historical average during spring and early summer.

Lobstermen benefitted by getting a jump on the season, which equated to a spike in landings. For their part, the lobsters responded to the warm water with an early shed—3 to 4 weeks ahead of the normal time frame.

According to the article, Maine oyster growers also saw excellent growth and harvest numbers this summer. Additionally, closures caused by heavy rainfall were minimal, and the occurrence of red tide was low.

On the negative side, warm water may have caused low breeding success among seabirds, especially puffins and razorbills. This may have been due to a lack of juvenile herring—a critical, fat-rich forage species for these birds—in local inshore waters. As a result, the chicks were smaller when fledged, which results in a lower rate of survival.

Read more on the study:

The Working Waterfront