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Cod’s Continuing Decline Linked to Warming Gulf of Maine Waters – The New York Times

Rapid warming in the Gulf of Maine contributed to the collapse of cod fishing in New England, and might help explain why the cod population has failed to recover, even though fishing has largely ceased, according to a new study.

via Cod’s Continuing Decline Linked to Warming Gulf of Maine Waters – The New York Times.

This study will be published in tomorrow’s Science magazine.

The study states that Gulf waters have warmed faster than 99.9% of other oceans during 2004-2013, stressing the cod more than they can tolerate and leading to population collapse.  There has been a dual effect from a northward shift of the warm Gulf stream and atmospheric warming.

If all fishing–commercial and sport– were eliminated, it was estimated that it would take twelve to eighteen years for cod populations to recover, although even that prediction is uncertain.  Cod may be already at the southern edge of their viable range and may be eliminated from Gulf of Maine waters by global warming.

On the other hand, warmer waters have been beneficial to lobsters in Gulf waters, leading to population increases; sea bass have also appeared in the Gulf.  An explosion of green crabs, not native to the Gulf, has damaged the edible mussel and clam populations.  The changes may help some species and cause stress for others, but on balance there is likely to be more stress and some vulnerable species will disappear.  This is evolution, and evolution is driven by environmental stress as well as by competition between populations of predator and prey.

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