Impacts of the 2013–2015 marine heat wave on Canada’s west coast

A well-documented warming event that started offshore of the west coast of British Columbia in 2013 was evident in coastal waters by the summer of 2015, with an increase in water temperatures of 3˚C above normal. This warming of coastal waters was accompanied by harmful algal blooms, record high levels of large gelatinous zooplankton and invasion by warm-water species. The event may have had cascading ecosystem consequences, such as the extraordinary bloom of a colonial waterborne observed along the entire west coast of North America in 2017. While the specific causes are unknown, the 2013‒2015 marine heat wave, coupled with favourable conditions for growth and reproduction, could have resulted in this unprecedented bloom. The bloom had substantial negative impacts on commercial and recreational fishing operations due to fouling of fishing gear, illustrating that anomalous events can have unforeseen impacts on coastal fisheries.

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