Gulf of St. Lawrence: “Almost all indicators are red”

The warming trend in the waters of the estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence continued in 2023, according to scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Almost all indicators are roughly in the redexplains Peter Galbraith, physical oceanography researcher at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Scientists from the Maurice-Lamontagne Institute, in Mont-Joli, presented on Tuesday an assessment of the state of the estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2023.

We are at almost record temperatures at depth. In recent years, we have had some of the hottest warm waters we have ever experienced. We have dissolved oxygen at the lowest values ​​and the highest acidities ever recorded.explains Peter Galbraith.

In the Gulf, surface waters experienced a record temperature increase of 2.5°C in July and 2.8°C last October compared to the average of the last forty years. These increases can be explained by marine heat waves, according to the researcher.

The St. Lawrence estuary also experienced an exceptionally warm fall.

In September and October, surface temperatures there were around 5°C higher, another record.

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Peter Galbraith, researcher in physical oceanography at Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Photo: Radio-Canada / Francois Gagnon

Whether surface waters, the cold intermediate layer or deep waters, there is a warming trend, according to Peter Galbraith.

Furthermore, 2024 is the year with the least ice cover since the data was compiled.

In our experience, the St. Lawrence has never been so stressed in terms of pressure on resources

A quote from Peter Galbraith, researcher in physical oceanography at Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Losers and winners

Such changes bode poorly for cold-water fish and crustacean species, such as snow crab, Greenland halibut and northern shrimp, whose habitat depends on very cold waters.

These species are likely to reach a level commercial extinctionaccording to Marie-Julie Roux, researcher at the Maurice-Lamontagne Institute.

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Bluefin tuna is one of the marine species that benefits from warming waters, just like lobster, squid or Atlantic halibut. (Archive photo)

Photo: Associated Press / Chris Park

This means that such species will still be present in the Gulf, but at levels insufficient to allow commercial fishing.

recent years”,”text”:”What is more likely at the moment as a scenario is that species [qui vivent en] cold water will persist in the system, but at much lower abundance rates than what we have experienced in the last 30 years”}}”>What is more likely at the moment as a scenario is that the species [qui vivent en] cold water will persist in the system, but at much lower abundance rates than what we have experienced in the last 30 yearsexplains the researcher.

Other species, such as lobster, squid and Atlantic halibut, are already benefiting from warming waters, according to Hugues Benoît, scientific researcher at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

I think there are lobster fishermen on the North Shore who are very happy. It’s a species they didn’t see before. If I am a bluefin tuna, I am very happy to return to the gulf; the conditions are very favorablehe illustrates.

According to researchers, this is a transition period for the St. Lawrence ecosystem due to climate change and an adaptation challenge for the fishing industry.

Perhaps what is most challenging from a fisheries impact perspective is that the speed at which changes are occurring is much greater than what has been seen before.explains Marie-Julie Roux.

Scientists are also working on a model to better assess the impacts of the acidification of the St. Lawrence on different species of the St. Lawrence.

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