Not being a scientist, I’m not sure what it means (not that a scientist necessarily would), but a quick check of data collected over the past year by three NERACOOS buoys in the Gulf of Maine – B01, F01 and I01 – show that coastal Maine water temperatures aren’t too different from what they were one year ago.
But I’ve learned that what most people might not take to be a big difference (say, three or four degrees) can mean a lot when it comes to ocean habitat ecology. Data from F01 show that surface temperatures taken from the waters off Owl’s Head have been consistently two or thee degrees below 38 degrees, which is what they were a year ago (as of this posting)
Waters in the western Gulf of Maine, off the New Hampshire coast, from the surface to 50 meters in depth, are around 42 degrees Fahrenheit, as they were one year ago, according to data collected by B01. Data collected by I01, off Mount Desert island, show temperatures are slightly higher, 1.7 degrees at the surface and 0.4 degrees at 50 meters deep, than they were ago.
The most immediate concern is whether the water temperatures this winter may result in a lobster fishing season as bizarre as last year’s, when lobsters molted and were caught in large numbers earlier than usual, which made prices plummet and led to a trade blockade in New Brunswick. Again, I’m not in a position to interpret the temperature data or to know what it might suggest about any upcoming fishing season, but I am not alone in wondering what commercial fishing along the coast of Maine might be like in the coming year, the year after that, and so on.
The annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum is coming up this week, running from Thursday, Feb. 28 through Saturday, March 2, at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. The event usually attracts between 2,000 and 3,000 people each year.
This year, at least three of the planned sessions, one each on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, will focus upon changing water conditions as they effect pH levels (acidification), the recovery of the groundfish fishery, and the specific implications of increasing temperatures. Given what happened to Maine’s $330 million lobster industry last year, my guess is that these sessions (and others about ocean energy initiatives) will be among the best-attended sessions at the conference.