CICS Researchers Study Impacts of Climate Change on Regional Fisheries Production
Climate change is likely to affect fisheries production due to changes in ocean temperature, currents, coastal upwelling, etc., that can influence the geographic distribution of commercially important fish species. In a recent study appearing in Global Change Biology, William Cheung and other researchers from the Sea Around Us project, in concert with scientists from NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Climate Science (CICS) at Princeton University, examined potential changes in marine food security due to changing climate. The authors of the study used a dynamic bioclimate envelope model that links the geographic range of specific fish species to a variety of ocean parameters, such as water temperature, primary productivity levels, sea ice location, etc. They then used the output of NOAA’S Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2.1 coupled climate model and a suite of empirical primary production models to see how the distributions of different fish species might change under high- and low-emission climate scenarios. The calculation included 1,066 exploited fish and shellfish species from a wide range of taxonomic groups, ranging from krill, shrimps, anchovy and cod to tuna and sharks, that combined to produce 70% of reported global fish landings from 2000-2004. The model predicted that the global maximum catch potential in 2055 would change very little from current levels. However, it showed an overall shift of catch potential regionally, with increases of 30-70% at high latitudes and decreases of up to 40% at low latitudes. Many of the low-latitude areas that showed decreases of catch potential coincide with socioeconomically vulnerable areas.
Background. The challenge of predicting future response of fisheries has been approached in several ways: developing detailed local and regional individual-based and ecosystem-based models; extrapolating the present response to interannual variability to the future assuming that global warming will look like the positive phases of climate variability modes such as ENSO; or using an empirical approach like that used here. This is the first known attempt of the latter approach, and while sacrificing some of the specificity of predictions for individual species, it is advantageous in that it offers a global picture of the potential response to changing climate.
Significance. Previous studies of changing global food supply as a result of climate change have focused solely on terrestrial food supplies. Here we focused instead on marine food security, and found that regional changes in maximum fisheries catch potential may reduce access to food in vulnerable areas of the world that rely on fisheries for food and income. This research supports NOAA Mission Goal 1 - Protect, Restore & Manage the Use of Coastal & Ocean Resources Through Ecosystem-based Management NOAA’s Mission Goal 2 – To Understand Climate Variability and Change to Enhance Society’s Ability to Plan and Respond.
Cheung, W. W., Lam, V. W., Sarmiento, J. L., Kearney, K., Watson, R., and Pauly, D. (2010). Large-scale redistribution of maximum fisheries catch potential in the global ocean under climate change. Global Change Biology, 16:24–35.