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Water temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have reached record highs, experts warn

By Genevieve Beauchemin and Brooklyn Neustaeter, CTV News

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    MONTREAL, Quebec (CTV Network) — New data shows that water temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have reached record highs, with experts warning the increase could impact some species that live in the waters.

According to new research, published Tuesday by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, warming ocean temperatures — specifically those in deep water — set more records in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2021 than in the past 40 years.

The findings include that water temperatures at depths of 200, 250 and 300 metres hit highs of 5.7 C, 6.6 C and 6.8 C, respectively, over the past year.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Peter Galbraith analyzed the temperature changes in the different layers of the water. He told CTV National News that the temperatures in the “cold intermediate layer” of the water are the warmest scientists have seen since they began collecting such data.

Galbraith says the change in temperatures has happened quite suddenly, posing a risk to species in the gulf that may not be able to quickly adapt.

Galbraith explained that the warming waters affect the habitat for snow crabs and shrimp, among other unique sea creatures and animals that rely on the gulf’s ecosystem.

“If you were to have asked me 15 years ago ‘Could the Gulf of St. Lawrence get this warm?’ I would have said, ‘No, impossible,'” Galbraith said.

Now, he’s warning that water temperatures in the gulf are reaching a breaking point.

“We are close to that ‘as warm as it can get’ limit,” Galbraith said.

The findings from Fisheries and Oceans Canada are part of a global trend amid climate change.

The world’s oceans were the hottest on record in 2021 for the sixth straight year, which scientists say is largely due to fossil fuel emissions.

Richard Betts, head of Climate Impact Research at Exeter University in the U.K. says the sudden rise in temperatures is startling.

“The last seven years in particular are very substantially warmer than anything previously seen,” Betts said.

However, scientists say they are still studying the potential changes and impacts that may follow rising water temperatures.

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