Rising Sea Temperatures Causing Fish To Disappear In Tropics

Startling research out of the University of British Colombia shows that many regions around the equator could lose many of their most important commercial fish species by 2050, if left unchecked.

Daily Digest News reports that researchers used data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to study how fish may react to waters with increasing temperatures. The study found that if the waters in tropical regions warm by 3 degrees by 2100, the IPCC worst case scenario, fish will move away from their current habitats at a rate of 16 miles per decade. Under the best case scenario, of only 1 degree of warming, fish will move away at their current habitat at a rate of about 10 miles per decade.

The researchers say these findings are highly consistent with the fish behavior that has been monitored over the last few decades. Sadly, if the scenario holds true, the tropical fish population near the equator could thin significantly. William Cheung, associate professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre, says the result could be devastating to the surrounding communities.

“The tropics will be the overall losers. 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.”

The fishing industry could be hit hard by these changes if they come into play. However, though the tropic regions may lose out, Miranda Jones, a UBC Nereus Fellow and lead author of this study, points out it could provide substantial economic opportunities for people in northern and Arctic regions as the fish move to their waters.

“As fish move to cooler waters, this generates new opportunities for fisheries in the Arctic. On the other hand it means it could disrupt the species that live there now and increase competition for resources.”

It is important to note that the new study does not take into account earlier reports that suggest global fisheries could collapse by 2050 due to overfishing and pollution. In other words, the problem described in the UBC report may not come to pass if the fish do not live long enough to migrate.

However, not everyone is in agreement that the ocean waters will continue to warm. A cooling of the Pacific Ocean is putting global warming on hiatus, according to some reports. In fact, the flattening off of a rise in the world’s average surface temperatures for the past 15 years was attributed entirely to the Pacific Ocean.