Climate Change and Island Fisheries
Prince Edward Island has vital fisheries and aquaculture industries. Island waters are influenced by both the Gulf Stream (to the south) and the Labrador Current (to the north). Climate change is expected to produce a warming of the Gulf Stream south of Nova Scotia, as well as a reduced and warmer flow of water entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the St. Lawrence River, especially during the summer months. This will result in a further warming of Island waters and provide for the northward spread of marine species from the mid-Atlantic coastline of the United States. This migration will include not only commercially valuable fish species, but also pests and diseases.
Warming water is already causing some lobster to begin their molting process earlier than usual. Not only can this affect the quality and value of meat, it may require a change in the timing of traditional harvest periods. Crab may also be impacted by the warmer waters of the Gulf, resulting in a longer ‘soft-shell’ phase during which time they cannot be harvested or processed. Climate change is also causing oceans to become more acidic, making it more difficult for shellfish to develop hard shells.
Lower flow rates and warmer water temperatures may also contribute to a more prolific growth of sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) and greater levels of eutrophication in Island estuaries. This will negatively impact the health of the estuaries and make these areas less suitable for shellfish or fin fish aquaculture.
Changes in the extent and timing of sea ice formation could also impact seals and other marine mammals. Dependent upon ice supports for birthing their pups, seal populations can be expected to decline because of drowning and human activity.
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