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Fisheries managers on the East Coast plan for a changing climate

Todd Bookman

As climate change threatens fish and the people who catch them across the world and in New Hampshire, a group of fishery management organizations is planning for a variety of scenarios that could impact their industry.

The East Coast Climate Change Scenario Planning Initiative held its first of three webinars on Monday, dedicated to learning about the ways the ocean is changing with the climate.

Climate researcher Charles Stock presented on the ways the ocean is changing. The ocean has helped mitigate climate change, absorbing carbon dioxide, and over 90% of the excess heat energy created by greenhouse gas increases. But, Stock said, it’s feeling the strain.

“The service the ocean provides has come at a price, and the most direct effects of that are warming of the ocean and acidification of the ocean,” he said. Warming also means there is lower oxygen solubility in the water.

However, Stock said, there are still a lot of open questions about how the East Coast will experience climate change-related shifts in the ocean over the next 20 years, the period of time fisheries managers are looking at.

Those fisheries managers say some fish species on the East Coast have already experienced shifts in distribution, abundance, and productivity, related to climate change.

Zack Klyver, who co-founded Blue Planet Strategies, said he’d seen the changes throughout his work running whale watching tours in Bar Harbor, Maine.

“We’ve had to change our business model at the whale watch because of the patterns of whales following food,” he said. “Historically we went 25 miles offshore, now our trips are 55 miles offshore.”

In the coming weeks, the group will host two more webinars addressing the climate-related biological, social and economic changes that may develop. The group will use the webinar discussions to create scenarios that help them plan for the future of fisheries in the area.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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