Thermometer in sand

Climate Impacts

on Ocean Temperature, Food Source Distribution and Habitat

As detailed in the New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change, one significant impact of climate change is the warming of our oceans. Changes in the ocean temperature and water chemistry is expected to impact marine mammals, their food sources, and their habitats. In particular, rising ocean water temperature will impact predator-prey relationships, which in turn will impact migration patterns and shift population distributions. As a result, many marine species populations – including bait fish such as Menhaden – adapt by moving into new areas where conditions are more favorable. This can lead to increased interactions with humans as some whales move closer to near shore habitats.

“…humpback whales feed on Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus),
and there have been documented increases in larval menhaden along the Atlantic coast
from 2000 to 2013 which may explain the increase in whale sightings (Simpson et al. 2016).”

Source: New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change, 2020


Menhaden Abundance: 

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council (ASMFC) uses ecological reference points to manage the menhaden population, allowing for needs of species that depend on menhaden as a food source.  Menhaden traditionally have a migratory pattern similar to whales heading from New England and Mid-Atlantic waters to more southerly reaches in winter. However, for several years now the bays and near shore areas of New Jersey have seen menhaden year-round and warming waters are a reason we may be seeing menhaden as far north as Canada, which is rare.