Climate Change and Fishing Alter Fish Species Numbers and Distribution

First Posted: Dec 24, 2014 10:05 AM EST

Both climate change and fishing may be having an impact of fish stocks in the United States. Scientists have assessed the distribution of four commercial and recreational fish stocks and have found that these factors are the main causes for their high-or low-numbers.

In this case, the researchers examined black sea bass, scup, summer flounder and southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Bight winter flounder. These species have varied in abundance and have experienced heavy pressure from fishing over the past 40 years. The scientists examined the distribution of these species between 1972 and 2008.

In the end, the researchers found that black sea bass, scup and summer flounder all showed poleward shifts in distribution in at least one season. More interestingly, the shifts in black sea bass and scup were related to temperature. The shift in summer flounder, in contrast, was related to a decrease in fishing pressure.

Shifts in temperatures have significantly impacted marine life. It's caused both shifts in distribution and changes in abundance. Fishing, in contrast, reduces the abundance of marine species and truncates their size and age structure. This, in turn, can lead to range contractions or shifts.

The findings suggest that multiple factors should be considered when developing management strategies for these fish. Both fishing and climate change can have a massive role in the health of these fisheries. This, in turn, is crucial to keep in mind when setting catch limits.

The findings are published in the journal ICES Journal of Marine Science.

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