Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

‘Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare
“You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.”
As a duck with its eyelids, so he with his nose
Trims his belt & his buttons, & turns out his toes.

When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark,
And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark:
But, when the tide rises and Sharks are around,
His voice has a timid & tremulous sound.

Over in the Tweetiverse, someone was all boo-hoo about the eeevil effects of “climate change” that he claimed had “already occurred”. He referenced a publication from a once-noble organization that sadly has drunk the “CLIMATE EMERGENCY” koolaid, National Geographic.

So I read it, and the only thing in that, other than what “might” and “probably” and “could” occur at some uncertain time in the future, was a mention of “oceanic heatwaves” in Maine and surroundings, viz:

“The U.S. is already grappling with climate change’s heavy costs, like when a powerful ocean heatwave struck the Northeast and devastated the region’s lobster fishery.”

As a long-time commercial fisherman, that piqued my interest. So I looked to see what I could find out. Of course, over at Forbes, Priya Shukla can be counted on to repeat the latest alarmism. In this case, her article is entitled How Ocean Heatwaves Are Threatening The Gulf Of Maine.

Here’s the area that she’s discussing, on the Northeast coast up where the US meets Canada:

Figure 1. The Gulf of Maine. The state of Maine extends from between Portland and Portsmouth at the south end to Passamaquoddy Bay near the north end. You can see the deeps of the Jordan Basin off the coast of Maine.

Regarding 2018 ocean temperatures, her article said :

“The Gulf of Maine is currently experiencing its third-warmest year in 37 years, with satellite data showing that water temperatures are nearly 3 °F warmer than average – even in the depths of the Jordan Basin (which is over 600 feet deep). This anomalous warming has only been exceeded during ocean heatwaves in 2012 and 2016.  Although waters within the Gulf were only warming by one degree every two years for nearly two decades, research by Dr. Andrew Pershing, Chief Scientific Officer of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, shows that warming in the Gulf of Maine suddenly accelerated in 2004 to nearly ten times that rate so that the Gulf is now warming 99% faster than the rest of the world’s oceans.” 

OMG, everyone stand back, it’s the horrible “ocean heatwave”!

(I can’t help but note that if it was warming at one degree every two years, and it “suddenly accelerated in 2004 to nearly ten times that rate“, that would mean it was warming at five degrees F (~2.8°C) per year. That made my bad number detector go off, so I did some more research. If you go here, you can investigate that claim. The buoy out in the Jordan Deep shows that far from changing at 5°F per year, from 2004 to 2005, the peak temperature in August dropped by three degrees F. In 2006 it warmed to where it was in 2004, and after that, peak temperatures remained unchanged for the next five years until the warm year of 2012 … but I digress …)

Okay, so we’re looking for aquatic devastation in the warm-water years of 2012, 2016, and the third-warmest year, 2018. Plus we’re looking to see what happened as the Gulf of Maine waters warmed at an accelerated rate since 2004.

Next, I went to find some data bearing on the question, and you’re gonna either laugh or cry about what I found.

First, I got the total commercial landings for all ocean species in Maine. Maine is the state that has the largest border on the Gulf of Maine, so total landings in Maine are the best indicator of the health of the Gulf. Here’s that graph:

Figure 2. Total weight of all commercial fishery landings in Maine from 1964 to 2018. 

Here, you can see the horrible effects of the “ocean heatwaves” in the Gulf of Maine in 2012, 2016, and 2018. In all three cases, catches were higher than in the cooler years before and after.

Next, I looked at the lobster fishery, since the National Geographic article had claimed that “ocean heatwaves” had “devastated the region’s lobster fishery”. 

In this case, I was fortunate in that I found enough data to calculate a most important statistic, what in the study of fisheries management is called “CPUE”—Catch Per Unit Effort. 

Why is catch per unit effort important? Suppose a given year, a certain fishery catches twice as many fish as the year before. Does this reflect an increase in the numbers of fish in the ocean? Or does it just reflect twice as many boats fishing the same numbers of fish in the ocean? It’s a crucial distinction with many consequences for the management of the fishery.

Now, in different fisheries, the “unit effort” has different meanings. If it is a longline fishery, for example, they catch fish on mile-long lines with hooks dropping from them at intervals. So the “unit effort” would likely be “hook-days”, the number of hooks times the number of days that the hooks are in the water. And the CPUE would then be pounds (or kilos) caught per hook per day.

For lobsters, it’s much simpler. Each fisherman is allotted a certain number of traps that he can fish, no more than 800 traps per boat. So the unit effort is the number of traps fished, and the CPUE is pounds per trap. 

With that as prologue, here is the CPUE for the Maine lobster fishery.

Figure 3. Lobster catch per unit effort, Maine, from 1964 to 2018. 

Look at the awful outcome of the “marine heatwaves” of 2012, 2016, and 2018 on the Maine lobster fishery … they actually increased the lobster CPUE. And check out the result of the “accelerated” ocean warming since 2004 … steadily increasing lobster catch rates. I told you you’d either laugh or cry. 

I swear, they’re getting so desperate that they are simply making things up out of the whole cloth. They hear a rumor, multiply it by “EMERGENCY”, add a soupçon of “IT’S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT” and a heaping teaspoon of “EVERYONE PANIC!!”, and write it up as if it were fact, with bonus points for using a new alarmist term like “ocean heatwave”.

They say “The truth will out”, but man, it’s taking longer than I thought …


My Perennial Request: When you comment, please quote the exact words you are discussing. I began asking this after years of people saying “Willis, you claimed X” when I’d said nothing of the sort. Quoting the exact words avoids endless misunderstandings.

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