Nav: Home

Climate change shrinks many fisheries globally, Rutgers-led study finds

February 28, 2019

Climate change has taken a toll on many of the world's fisheries, and overfishing has magnified the problem, according to a Rutgers-led study in the journal Science today.

Ocean warming led to an estimated 4.1 percent drop in sustainable catches, on average, for many species of fish and shellfish from 1930 to 2010. In five regions of the world, including the East China Sea and North Sea, the estimated decline was 15 percent to 35 percent, the study says.

"We recommend that fisheries managers eliminate overfishing, rebuild fisheries and account for climate change in fisheries management decisions," said Chris Free, who led the research while earning a doctorate at Rutgers and is now a post-doctoral scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "Policymakers can prepare for regional disparities in fish catches by establishing trade agreements and partnerships to share seafood between winning and losing regions."

Seafood has become an increasingly important source of nourishment as the world population has grown, especially in coastal, developing countries where it provides up to half the animal protein eaten. More than 56 million people worldwide work in the fisheries industry or subsist on fisheries.

"We were stunned to find that fisheries around the world have already responded to ocean warming," said Malin Pinsky, study co-author and associate professor in Rutgers' Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources. "These aren't hypothetical changes sometime in the future."

The study reports that the effects of ocean warming have been negative for many species, but also finds that other species have benefited from warming waters.

"Fish populations can only tolerate so much warming, though," said senior author, Olaf Jensen, an associate professor in Rutgers' Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. "Many of the species that have benefited from warming so far are likely to start declining as temperatures continue to rise."

Scientists at Rutgers-New Brunswick and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studied the impact of ocean warming on 235 populations of 124 species in 38 ecological regions around the world. Species included fish, crustaceans such as shrimp, and mollusks such as sea scallops.

The scientists combined global data on fisheries with ocean temperature maps to estimate temperature-driven changes in the sustainable catch (known as the maximum sustainable yield) from 1930 to 2010. Their analysis covered about one third of the reported global catch, and losing species outweighed the winners as the oceans warmed.

The greatest losses were in the Sea of Japan, North Sea, Iberian Coastal, Kuroshio Current and Celtic-Biscay Shelf regions. The greatest gains occurred in the Labrador-Newfoundland, Baltic Sea, Indian Ocean and Northeast U.S. Shelf regions.

"Something I think is unique about this study is that we quantified effects that have already occurred to fisheries, rather than forecasting the future, which is much more fraught with uncertainty," said co-author Kiva Oken, a former postdoctoral scholar at Rutgers who is now a scientist at the University of Washington.

Overfishing provides a one-two punch to fisheries facing warming waters. Overfishing not only makes fisheries more vulnerable to ocean warming, but continued warming will also hinder efforts to rebuild overfished populations, the study says.

An important next step is to understand the impacts of ocean warming on tropical regions, where data are limited, according to Free. These regions rely heavily on coastal fisheries as a source of food and livelihoods. Another important step is to learn more about other potential impacts on ocean fisheries. Aside from ocean temperatures, ocean oxygen content, acidity and productivity are also changing and may influence fisheries.

John Wiedenmann, an assistant professor in Rutgers' Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, and Jim Thorson at NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center contributed to the study.
-end-


Rutgers University

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#532 A Class Conversation
This week we take a look at the sociology of class. What factors create and impact class? How do we try and study it? How does class play out differently in different countries like the US and the UK? How does it impact the political system? We talk with Daniel Laurison, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College and coauthor of the book "The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged", about class and its impacts on people and our systems.