01/08/2013 12:08 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2013

Climate Change Challenges New England Fishermen

For years scientists have been blaming fishermen for depleted cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine, but now evidence points to another culprit -- climate change. Recent reports have found that changing ocean temperatures are responsible for shifting fish populations. As waters warm, cod are swimming to colder seas. But record high temperatures in the North Atlantic are bringing other species, and as lobster's natural predators head north, lobstermen like Captain Bobby Springer are seeing populations grow.

Bobby has been lobstering literally since he was a baby watching his dad from a crib on the boat. At the tender age of five Bobby started hauling traps, and when he was 17 he bought his granddaddy's 31-foot lobster boat the F/V Northeaster. He'll never forget the time he spotted a killer whale in the Gulf of Maine, or the time a propane tank exploded when he was 35 miles offshore, nearly killing him and his crew. Bobby credits his success to being extremely hard working: "If you do the work, you make a living," he says, "Nothing more, nothing less."

Even after decades at sea, the most dramatic change of all for watermen like Bobby may well be our response to climate change. Warming waters combined with rigorous regulations bring continuous challenge to independent New England fishermen trying to feed their families. They say New England was built on cod, but while cod seem to be swimming to Greenland, cod's close cousins (pollock, haddock, and hake) are abundant and sustainably managed. The best way to ensure a future for our treasured traditional fishing communities is to buy what they do catch.

There's no denying that warm is the new norm, and with continual global inaction to curb fossil fuel emissions, we all have to adapt. After all, the only constant is change - and what we do in the face of this change will make all the difference.