To the Editor:
The Gulf of Maine, a vital ecosystem for thousands of species (including us humans), is shifting rapidly. The cold, nutrient-rich waters are essential seasonal feeding grounds for marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals. Yet, in my hundreds of days of being out on the water over the last 16 years, I’m telling you, I’m starting to see startling changes.
As a naturalist at the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, I am passionate about sharing the wonders of the Gulf of Maine marine mammals with people. But the observed shifts in traditional feeding grounds over the last few years are resulting in a different topic of conversation with boat passengers these days – mainly, climate change and its impacts on the distribution and health of marine mammal populations.
As water temperatures rise at unprecedented rates in the Gulf of Maine, I fear that we are running out of time to re-establish this area as a premier feeding ground for marine mammals – notably, to whales that travel our way from their Caribbean breeding grounds each summer.
However, I feel optimistic when I see federal legislation like the newly released Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act. Our own ocean champion, Rep. Chellie Pingree, has already co-sponsored this comprehensive bill, which takes steps to promote and protect healthy ocean systems and marine wildlife, which will struggle to adapt to the effects of climate change.
This bill sets a goal to protect at least 30 percent of our ocean by 2030 and creates a new federal task force to submit a plan to Congress with an inventory of existing MPAs and new areas that deserve additional protection. Additionally, this legislation aims to strengthen protections for marine mammals from ocean noise and vessel collisions.
Watching our planet’s ocean giants feed off Maine’s coast each year is a sight that all should have the privilege to see one day. It is time to take action on combating the impacts of climate change in the Gulf of Maine.