Strange southern fish are not just showing up off the coast of New England, people fishing around New York Harbor are also regularly catching or seeing fish and jellyfish from warming waters arriving earlier, staying later, or here for the first time.
Feeling the Heat: How Fish Are Migrating from Warming Waters
Steadily rising ocean temperatures are forcing fish to abandon their historic territories and move to cooler waters. The result is that fishermen’s livelihoods are being disrupted, as fisheries regulators scramble to incorporate climate change into their planning.
BY BEN GOLDFARB • JUNE 15, 2017
Yale Environment 360
The Cape Cod Canal is a serpentine artificial waterway that winds eight miles from Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay. On warm summer evenings, anglers jostle along its banks casting for striped bass. That’s what 29-year-old Justin Sprague was doing the evening of August 6, 2013, when he caught a fish from the future.
At first, Sprague thought the enormous fish that engulfed his Storm blue herring lure was a shark. But as he battled the behemoth in the gloaming — the fish leaping repeatedly, crashing down in sheets of spray — he realized he’d hooked something far weirder. When the fisherman finally dragged his adversary onto the beach, a small crowd gathered to admire the creature’s metallic body, flared dorsal fin, and rapier-like bill. Sprague had caught a sailfish.
It doesn’t take an ichthyologist to know that sailfish don’t belong in the Cape Cod Canal. Istiophorus albicans favors the tropics and subtropics; it so rarely visits New England that Massachusetts didn’t even have a state record. But strange catches — including cobia and torpedo rays — have become more commonplace. Over the last decade, the Gulf of Maine, the basin that stretches from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed faster than nearly every other tract of ocean on earth, as climate change joined forces with a natural oceanographic pattern called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to increase sea surface temperatures by 3.6 F from 2004 to 2013. The results have been ecological transformation, upheaval in marine fisheries management, and an alarming window onto the warm future of global oceans.