PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The Gulf of Maine is vital to life in our state. It feeds us, affects our weather and makes many jobs possible. But while the Gulf is big - 36,000 square miles of ocean - its also changing.
The Gulf of Maine is getting warmer -- fishermen and scientists are starting to see the effects.
The average temperature of the Gulf has risen 2 degrees Centigrade over the past hundred years, according to records from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. But during some recent summers, particularly the summer of 2012, the temperatures in the Gulf have climbed even higher than usual.
Scientists point to the dramatic drop in shrimp populations in the Gulf as one result of warmer waters. Shrimp, they say, are a cold water species and apparently moved out or did not reproduce because of warmer sea water.
On the other hand, researchers and fishermen say lobsters have been helped by the warmer Gulf temperatures. They say the huge increase in lobster populations over the past years is at least partly the result of temperature.
And warmer water also appears to be luring new species to move to the Gulf. Fishermen say Black Sea Bass are showing up more frequently. So are squid and blue crabs. All are species that, until now, were normally living in the mid-Atlantic region. Prof. Andrew Pershing of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the University of Maine sums it up this way: "I describe the Gulf of Maine last summer as looking like you moved the Gulf of Maine south to New Jersey". That was in 2012, when what he calls an "ocean heat wave" hit the Gulf and some other parts of the North Atlantic.
How long will the warm-up last? No one knows. Many fishermen say they believe it's a cycle and the temperatures will go down in the coming years. Many scientists say they believe the warmer water is part of a world-wide temperature increase caused by global climate change, and that the trend could continue.
Here is a good website with lots of information about the Gulf of Maine: http://www.necwa.org/gulf-maine.html