Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 5-2017


New England’s fisheries produce millions of dollars annually, and monitoring and protecting these fisheries ensures the region’s prosperity. There is evidence that the distributional centers of many fish species are shifting north so they remain within their optimal thermal range. Twenty species in New England’s fisheries have been identified as being vulnerable to climate change and, for each of these species, landings data from New England and the Mid-Atlantic were analyzed for the years 1976 – 2015. Trends in landings data were compared to trends in temperature anomaly data. Major legislative events that may have impacted landings data, e.g., fishery closures and reductions in fishing effort, were also examined. The landings data of two out of the 20 species showed clear northward shifts. The remaining 18 species did not display clear trends linking distribution shifts to climate change. Longfin squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) demonstrated a well-defined distributional shift linked to climate change, and is likely to need immediate management action to account for the environmental effects of climate change. Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica), on the other hand, showed a similar landings trend that was not linked to climate change but instead correlated with landing trends in other fisheries. The equivocal nature of most of the results points to the necessity for further study using additional resources like fisheries independent survey data and more precise temperature data. This thesis serves as a background document summarizing the current status of New England fisheries and whether major legislative actions reflect the shifting environmental regime.