Global Fisheries Hit by Climate Change and Overfishing

tuna school

Image from Greenpeace

It's bad enough fish already have to deal with the consequences of overfishing; now, according to a new study authored by a team of UBC fisheries scientists, dozens will be faced with the prospect of extinction by 2050. Even slight fluctuations in temperature could cause many cold water species to perish as they attempt to seek out new, more amenable habitats, reports ScienceNOW's Christopher Pala.

Another study authored by Daniel Pauly, a fisheries expert at UBC, has found that fisheries catches in some tropical island countries may be up to 17 times higher than officially reported, writes IPS's Stephen Leahy.

fishing boats

Image from Omer Simkha

Using a model that tracked a range of habitat conditions, including water temperature and depth from sea ice, to predict which habitats would be most impacted by climate change, William Cheung, the study's lead author, and his colleagues found that around 50 species of commercial fishes living near or at the poles will go extinct within the next 4 decades. Those species that can will try migrating toward the Arctic and Southern oceans or end up trapped in closed seas.

While fisheries species in colder waters succumb to climate change, those living in tropical waters will also be feeling the heat from overfishing. According to Pauly, all of the 20 Pacific island nations in his study underreported catches because they didn't include the catch of local fishers (something developed nations like the U.S. fail to do as well).

The problem is that governments, scientists and major international organizations like the FAO rely on this faulty data to decide on fish quotas and licensing. The aid money some of these groups funnel to fisheries in developing countries often ends up benefiting large commercial-scale fisheries, the study also found. Most of these fish end up being exported to wealthy countries. As a result, local fishers may be forced to increase their catch rates -- aggravating an already serious predicament -- in order to survive.

You can read more about Cheung's model and UBC's "Sea Around Us" project, which monitors global catch rates, at the Fisheries Center website.

More on overfishing
::Pacific Tuna Overfishing to be Addressed in Panama City
::Your Crab Cake May Be Permanently On Back Order
::Bluefin Tuna Fishing Ban Has France Upset

Related Content on