One of the annual highlights in March in Maine is the Fishermen's Forum, a 3-day event that includes seminars, a trade show, and different evening events such as a seafood dinner and auction. This March marked the event's 40th year, which is a testament to the importance of fisheries to Maine's economy and community identity. This is the 3rd year Hurricane Island has had a booth and attended seminars at the event, and we always look forward to meeting new people and learning more about the hot-button issues in Maine fisheries. On Saturday, March 7, 2015 I attended a session co-hosted by the Island Institute and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) entitled “Forecasts, Tools, and Research to support Fisheries in Adapting to a Rapidly Changing Gulf of Maine." Speakers included staff from the Island Institute, GMRI, NERACOOS (Northeast Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing System), and graduate students and professors from the University of Maine. The first half of the session focused on the changes that have been happening over the last few years in terms of warming waters and the resulting effects on oceanographic and biological processes, such as the earlier timing of the lobster shed following the Gulf of Maine "heat wave" in 2012 and the timing and strength of the spring and fall plankton blooms. Andy Pershing, GMRI Chief Scientific Officer, concluded that we can expect to see colder winters and warmer summers and falls which will continue to contribute to the overall warming trend in water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. Dr. Pershing's model predicts that the result of warming temperatures will likely lead to lower cod recruitment and greater lobster landings.
During the second half of the three-hour session, presenters highlighted tools that exist or are being developed to help individuals track change at various spatial and temporal scales. One notable tool is GMRI's climate dashboard and model to forecast the start of the summer lobster shed based on water temperature data. Another model presented during the session was a lobster landings forecasting model developed by one of our science advisors, Noah Oppenheim, as part of his graduate work. Noah's model predicts regional landings based on data from the New England Lobster Settlement Index and other sources. Finally, NERACOOS offers a wealth of data that is easily accessible through the real time data portal where you can compare daily data on temperature to the average over a larger timeframe.
All in all, the session revealed the number of organizations and individuals working to understand climate change in the Gulf of Maine and how we can support adaptation in our fisheries. I plan to incorporate information I learned during this session into my panel presentation, “Climate Change in Maine” at the first Maine Science Festival in Bangor on March 21, 2015.