Everyone’s excited about the warming temperatures leading up to the summer; that is, everyone except for marine organisms. Rising ocean temperatures have caused many marine organisms to die or relocate to other, cooler waters. This fact is not only detrimental to oceanic ecosystems, but also to the Maine economy, which greatly relies on shellfish, such as lobsters and shrimp. Something must be done before the environment and economy are further damaged. Unfortunately, some Maine politicians blatantly disregard this urgent issue.
This winter, the Maine shrimping industry was closed for the second consecutive winter. The moratorium was put in place for good reason. A study performed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission concluded that since 2010 the shrimp population had reached its lowest level since 1978. The decline in the past four years alone is astounding. In 2010, there were more than 12 million pounds of shrimp landed. In 2013, there were 500,000, and in 2014, none.
The decreasing number of harvested shrimp is severely detrimental to the Maine economy. Many fishermen rely on shrimping during the winter for as much as 50 percent of their total income. The absence of shrimp has left a $5.1 million hole in the Maine economy and is forcing many of our dollars to be sent overseas to import shrimp.
Reasons for the decline in shrimp populations are largely believed to be resulting from rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said that “there is a correlation between warming ocean temperatures and shrimp stock decline.” In addition, Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, stated “the trend we have in the Gulf of Maine right now over the last 10 years, is about eight times faster than the global rate.”
Ocean acidification lately has been shown to be potentially just as harmful to shellfish as warming oceans. Not much is yet known about ocean acidification, however, a recent report issued by NOAA stated that it has “potentially devastating ramifications for all ocean life.” Acidification, caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide into the water, is inhibiting the development of shellfish in particular. Paired with global warming, it has already shown severe implications for the shrimp industry. It is crucial to do something before the larger, lobster industry is also affected.
The closure of the shrimp industry has highlighted the clear relationship between global warming, the economy and, consequently, job loss. This fact calls for political action and support. Unfortunately, the ones who have the most influence over such matters are choosing to turn a blind eye to global warming. In a 2009 radio interview, Gov. Paul LePage agreed that “the entire global warming thing is a hoax anyway.” Evidently, LePage sees global warming as a positive. “Everybody looks at the negative effects of global warming, but with the ice melting, the Northern Passage has opened up,” he stated in 2013. It is not far fetched to assume that many shrimp fishermen may think otherwise.
It is crucial that the people of Maine be aware and recognize the threats of global warming and ocean acidification to the environment and economy. In an effort to save our staple industries, we must support and promote policies of environmental protection.
Oliver Kruze of Georgetown graduated from Morse High School in 2014. He is a student at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.