Fish Shifting Away from Current Habitats at 26 Kilometer per Decade

First Posted: Oct 13, 2014 06:07 AM EDT

Researchers have estimated that by 2050 a large number of fish will vanish from the tropics due to the changing temperatures.

A large number of fish is estimated to disappear from the tropics by 2050. This finding was made by researchers at the University of British Columbia after they examined the impact of climate change on fish stocks. They identified ocean hotspots for local fish extinction, but also found that the rapid change in the temperature will force the fish into the Arctic and Antarctic waters.

The large scale shift of marine fish and the invertebrates was made using the climate change scenarios as used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They also estimated that the warming of the oceans by just three degree Celsius in 2100 will cause the fish to drive away from the current habitats at a rate of 26 kilometre per decade. Warming of the oceans by just one degree Celsius, will cause the fish to move 15 kilometres every decade. This is found to be consistent with the alterations taking place in the last few decades.

"The tropics will be the overall losers," said 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."

This study is a part of the previous study that looked at the changes in the fisheries catch in association to the ocean warming since the 1970s.

Modeling was used to predict how 802 commercially important species of fish as well as invertebrates respond to the warming of the ocean water temperature, other changing ocean properties and novel habitats opening up at the poles.

"As fish move to cooler waters, this generates new opportunities for fisheries in the Arctic," said 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."

The finding as documented in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

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