Whim­per­ings about the weather

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

Pam Framp­ton: You’ve got to hand it to the New­found­land cli­mate. It con­sis­tently proves that it is pos­si­ble to suck and blow at the one time.

We know the ef­fects and im­pacts of the ocean here. We know its role in heat­ing and cool­ing — look no fur­ther than the seven or eight de­gree (if you’re lucky) dif­fer­ence be­tween days with on­shore winds and no wind.

Al­ready this spring, I’ve driven as lit­tle as 300 me­tres to­wards the sea in Con­cep­tion Bay North and watched the car ther­mome­ter sink from 14 de­grees to a lowly six.

So when cli­mate sci­en­tists point out that the most im­por­tant tem­per­a­tures to watch aren’t on the land, but in the sea, well, we’re al­ready fa­mil­iar.

What they’re say­ing is that the dense, huge oceans soak up ex­tra heat and store it; the ocean has ab­sorbed some 90 per cent of ad­di­tional heat from cli­mate change, and in the process, it has risen to the high­est tem­per­a­tures since record­ing be­gan in the 1880s.

There’s a June 15th ar­ti­cle in the jour­nal Yale En­vi­ron­ment 360 about the ef­fect that tem­per­a­ture change is hav­ing on fish species, es­pe­cially in fish­eries in the north­east­ern United States, as far north as the Gulf of Maine. (You can read it here — http://bit.ly/2s5qyvq)

It talks about the “gen­eral trend” of fish hav­ing a lik­ing for par­tic­u­lar tem­per­a­tures, and when those tem­per­a­tures get too high, the fish move to cooler pas­tures.

A lot of the ar­ti­cle isn’t new: species like At­lantic sun­fish have been pop­ping up oc­ca­sion­ally in New­found­land wa­ters for years, and the spawn­ing tem­per­a­ture re­quire­ments for cash-crop species like cold wa­ter shrimp are well known. But species like lob­ster, her­ring, cod, black sea bass, but­ter­fish and a host of oth­ers are mov­ing north, and the sim­ple fact is that the fish are mov­ing faster than the fish­er­men.

The best ex­am­ple in the story cen­tres around black sea bass: the bulk of the quota for the fish is held by fish­er­men in North Carolina, who used to be ad­ja­cent to the largest body of the stock. The fish are now mov­ing into New Eng­land wa­ters, so quota hold­ers have to travel as much as 10 hours north to suc­cess­fully catch their bass. Why is that im­por­tant here? Well, for one small com­mon­sense rea­son that’s so ob­vi­ous it should poke us all in the eye — range.

What’s at risk is not only the fish species, but the ecol­ogy of the fish har­vester.

Here’s why: you could call it a form of evo­lu­tion, a near-text­book case of sur­vival of the fittest. The fish har­vester who is likely to be able to fish sus­tain­ably is also likely to be the one who has the broad­est avail­able num­ber of species, and, put sim­ply, the big­gest boat. The big­ger the boat, the fur­ther the ves­sel can roam, and the larger catch it can store when it does find fish. Smaller boat fish har­vesters may be left with nowhere to go, and lit­tle to catch.

(Think about that in terms of the re­cent re­fit of the Kat­sheshuk II — the Ocean Choice In­ter­na­tional shrimp fac­tory freezer has just got­ten $8 mil­lion in re­fits to catch and process ground­fish. The ship will have a far greater reach than smaller boats, all the way to the Arc­tic Cir­cle, and will be able to cap­i­tal­ize on fish stocks oth­ers can’t ef­fec­tively reach, es­pe­cially ves­sels with­out the abil­ity to freeze and store catches. You can only travel with un­re­frig­er­ated fish for so long.)

It’s the same for fishing towns: if you de­pend on one species, and that species likes a spe­cific wa­ter tem­per­a­ture, the town’s days may be num­bered.

There’s no easy es­cape or so­lu­tion. We can’t make the fish stay.

Warmer wa­ters may re­duce the num­bers of par­tic­u­lar fish species.

They may re­duce the num­ber of par­tic­u­lar fish har­vesters, too.

The fish har­vester who is likely to be able to fish sus­tain­ably is also likely to be the one who has the broad­est avail­able num­ber of species, and, put sim­ply, the big­gest boat.

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