October 30, 2018 / 2:13 PM / in 18 days

Ocean Shock - About this project

An open mussel shell in the west of Norway, July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

NEW YORK (Reuters) - This project began with a little moment: Reporter Maurice “Mo” Tamman, who lives on a sailboat in New York Harbor, noticed fish in nearby waters that were normally found farther south. He started digging into the data, and he discovered that marine creatures are fleeing warming seas, in an epic underwater refugee crisis.

To examine sea surface temperatures and identify hotspots, he used data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The data estimated the mean monthly temperature in one-degree grids for the seas across the planet starting in 1970.

To explore the migrations of marine creatures, he used federal trawl survey data in the U.S. North Atlantic. This tracks the location of dozens of species dating to the late 1960s. He chose this data set because it’s one of the oldest in the world and has maintained consistent methods throughout, making its numbers comparable over time. Using a Rutgers University version of the data called OceanAdapt, which is enhanced by adding the geographic centre of each species’ range, he was able to quantify the number of species that had shifted north, or deeper, or both.

He also used U.S. Coast Guard data on documented vessels to identify where the country’s newest fleets were located, which pointed to Maine and lobster fishing. And he used NOAA data on the home port of vessels that landed summer flounder in Virginia and North Carolina. Beyond the United States, he relied on United Nations and national fish-landings data, various stock assessments and published academic papers.

This number-crunching, though, was just the first part of the journey. Dozens of Reuters journalists have since joined Mo to create this multipart series.

From Stonington, Maine, to Hakodate, Japan, reporters found the intimate stories of people who have been affected by this global marine migration. In additional to filing hundreds of traditional images that captured a rapidly changing world, photographers shot drone footage on the West African coast and 360-degree pictures of mangrove destruction in Borneo. Visual storytellers spent months making the data come alive and bringing you Norway’s Silicon Valley of the Sea. And finally, an artist in South Africa created the beautiful watercolour illustrations.

This is Reuters’ reach — and its commitment to this important story of the climate crisis beneath the waves.

Reporting by Maurice Tamman; edited by Kari Howard

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