HALIFAX – A federal report says some Maritime waters were warmer than normal last year, including record-breaking temperatures at the bottom of Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Fisheries scientist David Hebert says temperatures in parts of the Scotian Shelf increased by up to 3 C in 2016, and temperature highs near the bottom of the northern gulf broke a century-long record.
Hebert, who contributed to the federal report, says parts of the Bay of Fundy also saw unseasonably warm waters, but ocean temperatures near Newfoundland and Labrador hovered around average.
He says the oceanic survey suggests a shift in the distribution of plankton, a vital food source to marine life, which could have ramifications throughout the ecosystem.
Hebert says there has been speculation that the decline of a certain type of plankton eaten by North Atlantic right whales in the Scotian Shelf — located southwest of Nova Scotia — may have affected their migration patterns.
Researchers have noticed a recent uptick of right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where 10 of the endangered animals have been found dead since early June.
Hebert says Ottawa is investing about $1 million in equipment to continue monitoring conditions in Atlantic waters.