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Gulf of Maine Research Institute Gets $1 Million To Study Climate Change's Effect On Fisheries

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press/file
In this Oct. 28, 2015, photo, fisherman Buck Alexander mends a trawling net used for mid-water fishing, in Portland, Maine.

The federal government is awarding more than $1 million to a Maine-based research project on climate change and Gulf of Maine fisheries. The results could change the way catch quotas are set for groundfish species such as cod and haddock.

Fisheries regulators set catch quotas based on historical data on species abundance in any given area. Now scientists will seek ways to estimate how groundfish will respond, looking forward, to water temperature changes in the Gulf of Maine, which in 10 years has warmed faster than 99 percent of the rest of the global ocean.

Dr. Lisa Kerr, who leads the project at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, says the idea is to create a predictive tool for managers that includes a variety of climate change scenarios, species biology and fishing techniques.

“It’s essentially a way we can simulate how things are going to respond to climate change and test things virtually before we do the testing on the water, with fishermen’s livelihoods at stake,” she says.

It’s a three-year project and Kerr says GMRI will convene multiple stakeholder meetings for input and advice before making any proposals to fisheries managers.