'Fish thermometer' reveals long-standing, global impact of climate change

May 15, 2013
Marine species are gradually moving away from the equator into cooler waters, and as a result, species from warmer waters are replacing those traditionally caught in many fisheries worldwide. Scientific studies show that this change is related to increasing ocean temperatures. Credit: The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Climate change has been impacting global fisheries for the past four decades by driving species towards cooler, deeper waters, according to University of British Columbia scientists.

In a Nature study published this week, UBC researchers used temperature preferences of fish and other marine species as a sort of "thermometer" to assess on the world's oceans between 1970 and 2006.

They found that catches were increasingly dominated by warm-water species as a result of fish migrating towards the poles in response to rising .

"One way for to respond to ocean warming is by moving to cooler regions," says the study's lead author William Cheung, an assistant professor at UBC's Fisheries Centre. "As a result, places like New England on the northeast coast of the U.S. saw new species typically found in warmer waters, closer to the tropics.

"Meanwhile in the tropics, climate change meant fewer marine species and reduced catches, with serious implications for food security."

"We've been talking about climate change as if it's something that's going to happen in the distant future – our study shows that it has been affecting our fisheries and oceans for decades," says Daniel Pauly, principal investigator with UBC's Sea Around Us Project and the study's co-author. "These global changes have implications for everyone in every part of the planet."

Explore further: Strange, fanged deer persists in Afghanistan

More information: Paper: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12156

Related Stories

US Atlantic cod population to drop by half by 2050

Feb 12, 2009

A University of British Columbia researcher put a number to the impact of climate change on world fisheries at today's Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.

Sea life 'must swim faster to survive'

Nov 07, 2011

Fish and other sea creatures will have to travel large distances to survive climate change, international marine scientists have warned. Sea life, particularly in the Indian Ocean, the Western and Eastern Pacific and the ...

Recommended for you

Is fleet diversity key to sustainable fisheries?

14 hours ago

Concern about fisheries is widespread around the world. Over the past several decades, a robust discussion has taken place concerning how to manage fisheries better to benefit ecosystems and humans. Much of the discussion ...

Strange, fanged deer persists in Afghanistan

14 hours ago

More than 60 years after its last confirmed sighting, a strange deer with vampire-like fangs still persists in the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan according to a research team led by the Wildlife ...

Captive rhinos exposed to urban rumbles

15 hours ago

The soundtrack to a wild rhinoceros's life is wind passing through the savannah grass, birds chirping, and distant animals moving across the plains. But a rhinoceros in a zoo listens to children screaming, cars passing, and ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.