Times Standard (Eureka)

Waters off New England had 2nd warmest year on record in 2022

- By Patrick Whittle

The waters off New England, which are home to rare whales and most of the American lobster fishing industry, logged the second-warmest year on record last year.

The Gulf of Maine, a body of water about the size of Indiana that touches Maine, New Hampshire, Massachuse­tts and Canada, is warming faster than the vast majority of the world’s oceans. Last year fell short of setting a new high mark for hottest year by less than half a degree Fahrenheit, said scientists with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, a science center in Portland.

The average sea surface temperatur­e was 53.66 degrees (12 degrees Celsius), more than 3.7 degrees above the 40-year average, the scientists said. The accelerate­d warming is changing an ecosystem that’s host to numerous important commercial fishing industries, especially for lobsters, they said.

One implicatio­n is that the warming is driving species more associated with southern waters into the Gulf of Maine and altering its food chain, said Janet Duffy-Anderson, chief scientific officer with the institute. That includes species such as black sea bass, which prey on lobsters.

“Who will be the emergent species and who will be the species that decline is, in large part, a function of those interactio­ns,” said Duffy-Anderson. “At the moment, we’re not in a period of stability.”

The gulf is the nerve center of the lobster fishing business, which has recorded heavy catches over the past 10 years. However, lobster fisheries in more southern waters have collapsed, and scientists have placed the blame on warming temperatur­es.

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