Canada Adds Warm-Water Fish to List of Watched Species on East Coast
A sign of the times, several species of warm water fish were added to the annual summer survey by research vessel off the coast of eastern Canada in 2020.
According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the quantity of black-bellied roses of spawning age is estimated at 4,000 tonnes, the highest ever.
Scientists say the northward movement in Canadian waters has followed warming ocean temperatures in the Atlantic.
Monitoring for black-bellied rockfish, scallops, triggerfish, tilefish, dusky shark and others was first included last year in the DFO summer trawl survey on along the Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy.
This was done at the behest of the commercial fishing industry, which accidentally catches them – known as bycatch – but cannot land them because they are not included in any conditions of the fishing licenses. Canadian commercial.
Stop wasting them, says fishing company
This does not make sense to Alain d’Entremont, President and CEO of Scotia Harvest, a groundfish and scallop fishing company with a fleet of vessels and operations in southwestern Nova Scotia. -Scotland.
“I think if these are groundfish species and we catch them as part of our regular fishery, then there should be mechanisms so that we can land them and derive economic value from them, instead of just wasting them, ”he added. Entremont told CBC News.
“We’re going to see that as we see changes in the environment. We just want to make sure that there is a process to manage it, adapt to it and also collect information about certain species, their abundance. and their condition. “
‘Oh look, there’s a weird fish’
Fisheries biologist Don Clark is the lead scientist for the Scotian Shelf / Bay of Fundy survey, which has been capturing, counting and helping estimate populations of commercial fish since 1970.
In an abbreviated mission last year, the survey completed 195 trawls.
Based at the Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Clark has been monitoring marine species in the region for decades.
“I would say over a 10 year period, it’s something that went from ‘Oh look, there’s a weird fish’, to now I expect to see these fish in this area,” said Clark on CBC News.
He has previously reported and photographed non-native fish, including black locust, spotted whelp, and deep-bodied wild boar, which DFO calls new warm water species.
The most common of new arrivals was the longest.
Black bellied rose story
The black-bellied rose is a spotted, spiky-finned member of the rockfish family, such as the oceanic perch.
The former were observed in DFO trawl surveys as early as 1980, when they were rare and relatively small.
“They started to get bigger over time and we got more of them,” Clark said. “Since they started appearing in our investigation, they have spread further north and east, but staying in that kind of deeper, warmer water.”
In its summer 2020 survey report, DFO said their abundance is increasing, but Clark said the black-bellied rose and other arrivals are relatively rare compared to native species.
“But they’re here every year now. It’s something that marks a change,” Clark said.
“Some of these things will happen in hot water in the summer and go away again as the waters get colder. Those who remain have found conditions for a full life. So they stay and reproduce, like the rose bush. black bellied. “
What about the other species?
The 2020 survey noted an increased presence of scallops, which have been captured in deeper, warmer waters every year since 2014. The distribution is limited but they can be locally abundant, according to the report.
Berried females in a state of spawning are captured.
Clark said Nova Scotia is now likely at the edge of its range.
Black bass were not captured during the summer survey, but were captured during the winter surveys on Georges Bank.
According to the report, the summer survey is unlikely to provide any useful information for estimating the abundance of dusky sharks or triggerfish.
Canada must adapt to changing ocean conditions
Clark said the movement of fish is the biological consequence of oceanographic changes.
These changes erupted in 2012 when the United States’ National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reported that sea surface temperatures on the Northeast Shelf were on average 14 ° C, the highest temperature recorded in 150 years.
Ocean temperatures off Canada’s east coast were about two to four degrees above normal in 2012, also setting records.
“We shouldn’t be surprised. Anglers have seen these fish for years,” said environmentalist Susanna Fuller, vice president of operations and projects at Oceans North, which describes itself as a nonprofit that promotes science and the community. -based conservation.
She said it was time for DFO to start planning for the arrival of warm water fish.
“These are the kinds of things that we need to be able to pivot on fairly quickly as species ranges change. And it’s going to go the other way as well,” she said, noting the disappearance of lobster fishing off Connecticut and New York.
“I think we also have to think about the socio-economic aspects. I mean, for example, if the Gulf of Maine starts to get too hot for lobster. Well, what does that do to the socio-economic aspects of southwestern New Brunswick and southwestern Nova? Scotland ?”
No one from DFO was immediately available for comment.
However, in a 2018 report on Atlantic Ocean conditions, the department explicitly linked northward migration to warming temperatures. Then Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said climate change must be taken into account in all future fisheries management decisions.