Changing climate means changing times for fish and shellfish in New England and beyond


Co-authored by Erica Cirino

Dr. Jon Hare and his colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have just published the results of two years’ work: their first assessment of fish and shellfish species living along the New England coast.

What Hare and his colleagues have found: climate change will decimate the populations, and shift the range of more than half of the most commonly consumed New England fish and shellfish. Only a few species will thrive.

Increasing ocean temperatures, changes in ocean salinity and circulation, sea level rise and ocean acidification are some of the biggest threats to fish and shellfish. NOAA scientists project how ocean species’ numbers and ranges may change by using current trends in these changes and a database of information on conditions under which each species thrives.

The NOAA scientists have organized their findings in a color-coded chart that neatly summarizes species’ vulnerability. The idea is to make it simple for those overseeing the nation’s fisheries to understand which species are most likely to be harmed by climate change, and which may actually benefit from a rise in global atmospheric temperatures. This can help guide the development of conservation programs and fishing policy decisions, says Hare.

Right now the people tasked with overseeing fish populations should know it’s the species living on or near the seafloor—such as scallops, clams, flounder and lobsters—and those that migrate between fresh and salt water—like Atlantic salmon and sturgeon—that are most likely to be harmed by climate change. Species living near the water’s surface, such as herring and mackerel, are least vulnerable. Other species, like Atlantic croaker and black sea bass, may respond positively to a warming climate, increasing in population and distribution.

“This kind of assessment will be a key component for making management plans to ensure U.S. fisheries remain sustainable and —> Read More