Scientists at the University of British Columbia in Canada have the strongest evidence yet that climate change is driving hundreds of commercially important fish species to move away from tropics. To conduct the study, researchers used the same climate change scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They warned that rising temperatures will trigger a large-scale migration of fish and invertebrates to poles.
Fish species moving to poles 15-26 kilometers every decade
Findings of the study were published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science. Led by William Cheung, researchers said the fish species could move away from their current habitat by 26 kilometers per decade in the worst case scenario where ocean temperature rises by three degrees Celsius by 2100. Even in the best case scenario, where ocean temperatures go up only one degrees by 2100, the fish will migrate at least 15 kilometers per decade.
Cheung said tropics would the biggest losers. These areas rely heavily on fish for food, nutrition and diet. We will lose fish species that are very important to communities in these regions. Those species include herring, tuna, cod and halibut. Using a combination of three mathematical models and climate data, they showed how 802 commercially important fish species will respond to warming ocean temperatures.
Climate change could destabilize existing agreements between countries
Scientists said fish migration is more pronounced in the Arctic, which is expected to become a hot spot for species invasion. Many past studies have also showed that rising temperatures will affect the distribution of fish. But Cheung’s study offers the broadest and clearest picture of those effects. However, it’s still unclear how the invasive fish species will interact with existing ones is still unclear.
As climate change triggers the shift in fish stocks to different jurisdictions, it will create problems for international fisheries management. It’s already happening in some parts of the world. Scandinavian nations have been negotiating how they are going to deal with the changing location of Atlantic mackerel stocks.