Sea surface temperature (SST) is a key signaling factor for marine species for a variety of life-cycle events: growth cycles, breeding times, migration times, range location, among others. Fisheries management in the U.S. is cognizant of the importance of temperature, as it has been used as the main parameter for the establishment of species-specific fishing seasons to optimize legal size limit catches annually, as well as the location of set fishing grounds based on seasonal migrations. The authors specifically examined the changes in fisheries after the 2012 Northwestern Atlantic temperature anomaly, in the hopes of extrapolating how fisheries management will be disrupted by changing climate. Mills et al (2013)found that the 2012 temperature anomaly for sea surface was 2°C warmer than the average sea surface temperatures for 1982–2011.-Hannah Tannenbaum
Mills, K. et al. 2013. Fisheries management in a changing climate: lessons from the 2012 ocean heat wave in the Northwest Atlantic. Oceanography 26, 1–6.
Climate change became tangible for many Americans in 2012 with record high temperatures and the experience of Hurricane Sandy on the eastern seaboard. Temperature changes are important for marine fisheries; temperature norms have allowed for the establishment of fishing seasons for specific seasons, and set fishing grounds seasonally. Mills et al. examined the ecological responses to the 2012 temperature anomaly in the North Atlantic. By examining how various fisheries were disrupted spatially and temporally, the authors extrapolated future effects of continued oceanic warming. Ultimately, the authors recommend that fisheries management and regulations, specifically fishing seasons and fishing grounds, must be adapted to climatic changes in order to both preserve the fishing industry and prevent overfishing.
The authors examined the effects of the 2012 abnormal sea surface temperature through the example of the Atlantic lobster fishery. Lobsters migrate inshore annually based predominantly on temperature patterns. Their season for fishing is set for the summer based on the temperatures suitable for moving inshore. The authors found that in 2012 the temperature anomaly affected lobster migration such that there were record catches in June and July, but the season usually peaks in late August. While the higher catch success rate may be advantageous in the short term, warmer temperatures could reduce lobster fitness by cutting short the growing period. Additionally it was noted that the 2012 spike in lobster availability was not actually beneficial but instead led to price crashes for the price of lobster, adding instability to the fishery.
Other fisheries besides the lobster fishery were disrupted or adversely affected by the 2012 sea surface temperature anomaly in a variety of different ways. The disjointed responses to ocean warming will pose a particular challenge for proper maintenance of fishery regulations in the future. The authors suggest that these management institutions must adapt to be more holistic and flexible with their regulatory measures, to take into consideration climatic changes for past regulatory ordinances, and looking towards the future.