Cli-Fi Update: Commercial Food Fish Moving Away From Tropics

Caribbean islands (stock image). Credit: © jovannig / Fotolia


“The tropics will be the overall losers,” says William Cheung, 

associate professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre and co-author

of this study. “This area has a high dependence on fish for food,
diet and nutrition. We’ll see a loss of fish populations that
are important to the fisheries and communities in these regions.”
Climate change Fiction update: 

In James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, he stated that when the world's atmospheric concentration of CO2 reached around 385 ppm it would cross a tipping point beyond which it would be too late to avoid global warming that could take 100,000 years for natural systems to correct.  The latest reports from the NOAA's Mauna Loa Research Laboratory shows the atmospheric CO2 levels averaging around 395 parts per million with spikes over 400 for several months in 2014.

Admittedly, the science of global warming and climate change is complex, and our understanding of global weather systems is growing, so establishing a tipping point of no return is something few scientists are willing to project.

It's enough to say that atmospheric CO2 has increased from 320 ppm to our current levels in the 54 years since 1960.  This is having sometimes profound effects on the climate from melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic, to longer, more devastating fire seasons across the southern U.S., Australia and other temperate regions, to the effects on commercial fishing stocks as detailed in this report.

From this writer's viewpoint, the issue now is how to adapt to a permanent climate change rather than how to reverse what could be an un-reversible trend.  

This brings up the role of writers in this shared drama.  As writers, we're often cast as educators for those who read our books or watch our movies  Whether it's a disaster scenario, or a romance novel, climate change now plays a role in everything we create.  Whether you subscribe to idea that we as a species will successfully adapt and change to our changing climate, or you are in the doomsday camp predicting the end of the human species from our self-induced global warming, the more you know about climate change, the better you can help our readers and viewers prepare.

Here's the report:

Large numbers of fish will disappear from the tropics by 2050, finds a new University of Britsh Columbia study that examined the impact of climate change on fish stocks. The study identified ocean hotspots for local fish extinction but also found that changing temperatures will drive more fish into the Arctic and Antarctic waters.

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Using the same climate change scenarios as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers projected a large-scale shift of marine fish and invertebrates. In the worst-case scenario, where the Earth’s oceans warm by three degrees Celsius by 2100, fish could move away from their current habitats at a rate of 26 kilometres per decade. Under the best-case scenario, where the Earth warms by one degree Celsius, fish would move 15 kilometres every decade. This is consistent with changes in the last few decades.

“The tropics will be the overall losers,” says William Cheung, associate professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre and co-author of this study, published today in ICES Journal of Marine Science.  “This area has a high dependence on fish for food, diet and nutrition. We’ll see a loss of fish populations that are important to the fisheries and communities in these regions.”

Cheung and his colleague used modeling to predict how 802 commercially important species of fish and invertebrates react to warming water temperatures, other changing ocean properties, and new habitats opening up at the poles.

“As fish move to cooler waters, this generates new opportunities for fisheries in the Arctic,” says Miranda Jones, a UBC Nereus Fellow and lead author of this study. “On the other hand it means it could disrupt the species that live there now and increase competition for resources.”

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Story Source:  Materials provided by University of Faculty of Science British Columbia. M. C. Jones, W. W. L. Cheung. Multi-model ensemble projections of climate change effects on global marine biodiversity. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 2014

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