Quantcast

Global Fisheries Have Declined Due to Ocean Warming, 'Groundbreaking' Study Finds

Oceans
A school of fish in the northeast Atlantic, where fisheries have declined 34 percent due to climate change. Franco Banfi / Getty Images

More than 56 million people work in the global fishing industry or depend on fish for their main source of food, but that livelihood is already being threatened by climate change, a groundbreaking University of Rutgers led study found.

The study, published in Science Friday, looked at the impact of increased ocean temperatures on sustainable catches around the world over an 80 year period and found they had declined on average by 4.1 percent.


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

While 4.1 percent might not sound like a large amount, lead author Chris Free explained to The New York Times that it was still a big loss.

"That 4 percent decline sounds small, but it's 1.4 million metric tons of fish from 1930 to 2010," Free said, referring to the 80-year-period covered by the study.

Further, some regions of the world saw a steeper decline. In both the northeast Atlantic and the Sea of Japan, sustainable catches declined by 34 and 35 percent respectively over the study period.

Scientists not involved in the study lauded it as an important contribution to the knowledge of how climate change impacts marine life.

"This is going to be one of those groundbreaking studies that gets cited over and over again," University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Associate Professor Trevor Branch told The New York Times "Most of what I've seen before in terms of climate-change impacts have been speculative, in terms of, 'We think this is what's going to happen in the future.' This one's different."

The researchers looked at 235 populations of 124 species in 38 regions, according to Rutgers Today.

Here are some of their key findings by region, as reported by The New York Times:

  1. About a quarter of the regions studied saw fish populations increase; black sea bass catches increased by six percent off the U.S. Atlantic coast.
  2. About of a quarter of the regions studied saw no changes, including the northwest Atlantic.
  3. Half of the regions studied saw fish populations decline.
  4. Fish in colder areas responded better to warming generally than fish in already warm water.

However, the scientists warned that populations that had benefited from warming so far could still be harmed by it in the future.

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

The scientists said that ultimately the solution was to curb climate change, but also recommended actions to mitigate its impacts on global fisheries.

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

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Passengers trying to reach Berlin's Tegel Airport on Sunday were hit with delays after police blocked roads and enacted tighter security controls in response to a climate protest.

Read More Show Less
A military police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, pets Rosco, a post-traumatic stress disorder companion animal certified to accompany him, on Jan. 11, 2014. North Carolina National Guard

For 21 years, Doug Distaso served his country in the United States Air Force.

He commanded joint aviation, maintenance, and support personnel globally and served as a primary legislative affairs lead for two U.S. Special Operations Command leaders.

But after an Air Force plane accident left him with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain, Distaso was placed on more than a dozen prescription medications by doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Preliminary tests of the bubble barrier have shown it to be capable of ushering 80 percent of the canal's plastic waste to its banks. The Great Bubble Barrier / YouTube screenshot

The scourge of plastic waste that washes up on once-pristine beaches and finds its way into the middle of the ocean often starts on land, is dumped in rivers and canals, and gets carried out to sea. At the current rate, marine plastic is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the seas by 2050, according to Silicon Canals.

Read More Show Less
Man stands on stage at Fort Leonard Wood in the U.S. Brett Sayles / Pexels

Wilson "Woody" Powell served in the Air Force during the Korean war. But in the decades since, he's become staunchly anti-war.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Nov. 8. Matt Johnson / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

Joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Friday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders held the largest rally of any 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to date in Iowa, drawing more than 2,400 people to Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

Read More Show Less

Scientists have developed an innovative way to protect endangered rhinos from poaching: flood the market for rhino horn with a cheap, fake alternative.

Read More Show Less
With fires burning across the country, Australian officials say the situation is "unchartered territory." CBC News / YouTube screenshot

More than 130 wildfires were burning on Australia's East Coast Sunday, The Guardian reported. The blazes have killed three and destroyed at least 150 structures so far, and conditions are expected to worsen Tuesday, when the greater Sydney area will face "catastrophic fire danger" for the first time.

Read More Show Less