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July 7, 2021

Ocean Species Shifts | Jasmine Gutbrod | Teaching and Learning in Art and Design | 2021

by Jasmine Gutbrod
Species profiles being created in InDesign.

Ocean Species Shifts | Providence, RI

The more I learn about ocean sustainability the more I come to understand how complex the issues of habitat conservation and seafood supply chains are. One way that Eating with the Ecosystem is approaching such complex issues is by researching how different species in New England waters are reacting to the effects of climate change. Effects can be observed through warming water temperatures, new current patterns, differences in salinity, and more. There are many species that are exhibiting population shifts potentially as a direct result of climate change. Some species, such as Atlantic Croaker, Blue Crab, and Black Sea Bass have been scientifically studied and their shifting population centers recorded. For other species such as Triggerfish and Northern Pufferfish, the evidence is more anecdotal through word of mouth of fishermen and those in the seafood industry. Either way, there are species that are expected to make distinctive, often Northbound, shifts in their typical population centers, perhaps on a journey to find cooler water temperatures.

How these sea creatures are responding to climate change has important implications for everyone, particularly for people working in the seafood industry and for consumers who expect certain seafoods to be available to them. If species that are more common in Southern Atlantic waters are becoming more popular in Northern regions, will there be a market for those fish? Or will consumers expect the same fish to be available, forcing the supply chain to stretch and increasing the transportation required to deliver traditional species? It is possible to build a healthy relationship between us and the organisms that feed us, and one element of that is to adapt our eating habits to fit the ecosystems around us, ecosystems which are continually changing.

These past few weeks I have been working with the data that Eating with the Ecosystem has collected to make a series of species profile sheets detailing information on 12 fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods that are part of our diets. By organizing information in a clear and engaging way, viewers can learn about how species populations are changing more succinctly. These species profiles are intended for seafood market professionals who will be briefed and interviewed as a way to collect more information on these species. This sharing of knowledge also will allow fishermen and market professionals in New England to prepare their business models in advance so that they may adapt to new species being available due to climate change. These species population shifts are expected to continue and increase. If we can introduce the new species to relevant regions and build a market for them in advance, maybe the seafood industry can better adapt to a fishing model that is sustainable for those working in the industry as well as the ecosystem we depend on.

Species profile sheet for Scup shows information such as size, average boat price, geographic range, and culinary description.
Species profile sheet for Summer Flounder shows information such as size, average boat price, geographic range, and culinary description.
Sketches of icons describing the fishing method.

I’m excited to see how this project develops and am looking forward to learning more about the complex supply chains involved in the seafood industry. Alongside the species profiles, I am also coming up with ways of highlighting projects through social media pages as well as early brainstorming for a community outreach event. More updates to come!

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