The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
'Fish Fights' Could Erupt as Climate Change Drives Species Across Borders
A study published in Science on Friday warned that climate change could spark global conflict over an unexpected resource: fish.
As waters warm, fish and other animals are already moving into new territory at a rate of 70 kilometers (approximately 43.5 miles) per decade, and that pace could accelerate in the future. If we do not act to lower greenhouse gas emissions, new fish species will enter the waters of at least 70 countries by 2100, challenging the regulatory framework for managing fishing rights, according to a University of British Columbia (UBC) press release.
This could lead both to overfishing and international conflict as countries compete for moving species.
"I've got a three-year-old son, and sometimes it seems like he's better at sharing than countries are with fisheries," lead author and Rutgers University assistant biology professor Malin Pinsky told National Geographic.
The research team included marine ecologists, fisheries scientists, social scientists and lawyers and used models to predict the movement of 892 different fish stocks, according to the UBC press release. Climate change tends to urge marine life towards the poles. By 2100, at least a third of many countries' national catch could come from species that didn't live in their waters decades before. In East Asia, where there are already tensions over fishing rights due to illegal fishing and disputed boundaries, some countries could find at least 10 new species in their waters that were managed by other countries before, National Geographic reported.
"Marine fishes do not have passports and are not aware of political boundaries; they will follow their future optimal habitat," study co-author and UBC postdoctoral fellow Gabriel Reygondeau said in the press release. "Unfortunately, the potential change of distribution of highly-valuable species between two neighbouring countries will represent a challenge for fisheries management that will require new treaties to deal with transboundary fish stocks."
The paper cited two examples of past disputes that hint at what's to come.
In the 1990s, Pacific salmon moved from British Columbia to U.S. waters as the ocean warmed, igniting a "salmon war," according to the Huffington Post. The UBC release explained that U.S. fishermen caught fish heading to Canada, while Canadian fishermen caught fish migrating to the U.S. At one point, Canadian fishermen even blockaded an Alaskan ferry, and British Columbia sued the U.S. In 2000, the two countries finally came to a new agreement and the suit was dropped, the Huffington Post reported.
In another example, conflict escalated in 2007 when mackerel migrated en masse into Iceland's waters, leading to a "mackerel war" between Iceland and the Faroe Islands and the EU over the two countries' rapidly increased mackerel takes. The war also escalated to a blockade when Scottish fisherman prevented a Faroese ship from unloading. Scientists said the dispute led to unsustainable fishing of the silvery fish, according to National Geographic, and the Huffington Post reported that the conflict scuttled Iceland's entry into the EU.
"Even in the countries with the best of governments, those disputes are difficult to manage," study co-author and sustainability researcher with the Stockholm Resilience Center Jessica Spijkers told National Geographic.
The paper urged governments to forestall future conflict by implementing policies that allow nations to trade fishing permits and quotas.
"Examples of such flexible arrangements already exist, such as the agreement for U.S.-Canada Pacific salmon and Norway-Russia Atlantic herring," senior study author and UBC Institute for Oceans and Fisheries associate professor William Cheung said in the press release. "Fisheries management organizations can draw from these experiences to proactively make existing international fisheries arrangements adaptable to changing stock distributions."
- Fish and chips to curry: UK's favourite dishes at risk from climate ... ›
- Fish Species Forecast to Migrate Hundreds of Miles Northward as ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alisa Opar
For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.
By Jessica Corbett
Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images
By Bridget Shirvell
On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.
That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.
By Ketura Persellin
You've likely heard that eating meat and poultry isn't good for your health or the planet. Recent news from Washington may make meat even less palatable: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of the industry.