Few people see the effects of climate change as clearly as fishermen. As the climate changes and the oceans warm, fish are moving in search of cooler water, and this can have a big effect on fishermen’s livelihoods. For some, the evidence of climate change turns up in the net, such as when they catch longfin squid in the Gulf of Maine, far north of the usual range for that species. For others, the evidence is in what they’re not catching. Lobstermen in the Long Island Sound, for instance, have had little to catch since the valuable species that once supported them headed up the coast. Winter flounder, silver hake, and black sea bass have all shifted north as well.
These are just a few examples from the East Coast, but a study released last year that looked at more than 350 species from all over North America found that many are moving, and that their movements closely track changing ocean temperatures.
In the year since that study was published, Pinsky, in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries, has built a website called OceanAdapt that makes that trove of data, which had been scattered and difficult to access, easily available to the public. Users can search and download data on the geographic and depth ranges of more than 650 species of fish and invertebrates and track how those distributions have changed over time. This will be a valuable tool for the fishermen, fishery managers, and scientists who are grappling with the challenge of adapting to a changing climate.