The rapid warming waters of the New England’s coast in the Gulf of Maine, due to climate change, is contributing to the collapse of cod fishing, as the marine population ceased and hasn’t been able to recover.

A group of scientists found that high temperatures affects the reproduction of the Atlantic cod species, increasing their mortality as well as the consequences of many decades of overfishing.

Scientists believe that the warm waters have a harmful effect on ‘larvae’ and juvenile fish, as the high temperatures represent a metabolic issue for the fish in their reproductive stage. Nevertheless, researchers do not discard the possibility that the temperature also affects cod’s predators or prey.

Cod fishing in May is sure to be outstanding. Credit:

In 2010, fisheries managers tried to stop the cod’s decline by setting severe limits on fishing, ending activities such as recreational fishing, and reducing the number of commercial fishermen that get into the sea to catch this species.

The problem was that those limits were imposed based on estimates that didn’t took into account the rise of temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, meaning that even though most of  thefishermen respected the boundaries, it wasn’t enough to protect the cod population.

“The failure to consider temperature impacts on Gulf of Maine cod recruitment created unrealistic expectations for how large this stock can be and how quickly it can rebuild,” the researchers said on the paper, published in the journal Science Mag.

Researchers measured data from the water surface temperatures in the Gulf, since 1982, to draw a line on the temperature trends and compare these numbers with other oceans of the planet. They found that the temperature rate increased faster in the Gulf of Maine than in the rest of the world, from 2004 to 2013.

Credit: Basemap data from USGS.

Climate change causing atmospheric warming, and the shift of the Atlantic current bringing water to the Gulf, are the most probable causes of the changes in temperature.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in November 2014, a new set of restrictions on cod fishing in the area, announcing tough consequences for the fishing communities. They stated that the cod stock of the Gulf of Maine was in the worst shape of the last 40 years.

“We’re seeing an ecosystem going through a really massive change, and I really want my colleagues to look at this. We need to understand what it means,” researchers said, according to The Washington Post.

Moreover, these type of changes affect more than cod fishing and the people that depend on it. Scientists also link these warm temperatures to snowfalls and storms —for example, what happened in Boston earlier this year— caused by the increase of moisture in the atmosphere, leading to more precipitation.

Source: Science Mag