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'This challenge is huge': Researchers narrow focus to climate change solutions

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has launched a new virtual climate center, dedicated to finding ways to adapt to warming waters.

PORTLAND, Maine — Researchers in Maine are shifting gears. For the last decade, they've dedicated time and resources to uncover the threat that climate change poses off the coast.

Now, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute is launching a new effort to discover real solutions to the challenges associated with warming waters.

It's certainly a postcard-worthy scene; a gull's eye view of Casco Bay by drone. But what's not so pretty... the threat of climate change.

"This challenge is huge," said Donald Perkins, the President, and CEO of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. "Everybody in the world is dealing with it. We're on the forefront because the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than the rest of the ocean." 

Researchers found over the last 30 years, the Gulf of Maine warmed at a rate more than three times the global average.

The result of warming waters so far?

For one, the abundance of lobsters in Maine is decreasing and the crustaceans are on the move.

"So we have both the challenge to deal with but also the opportunity to emerge as leaders and 'ok' how do you navigate these challenges, where are the opportunities? And how do you make the best of a really, really tough situation," said Perkins.

To do that, GMRI is launching a new virtual center for climate change. Its members are tasked with finding solutions for right now and generations ahead. 

A mix of oceanographers, ecologists, economists, and scientists will focus on four areas:

  1. Finding support for individual fishing communities
  2. Helping the fishery management system deal with a changing ocean
  3. Assisting individual communities plan for sea-level rise
  4. And educating the next generation

The starting point to tackling a global problem.

"We think it's doable," said Perkins. 

Funding for the work dedicated to studying climate change and its impact by the research institute will go from about $2 million a year to $5 million a year.

Staff will go from around 70 people to around 100, according to Perkins.

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