The global fishing fleet will catch 25 billion fewer fish per year by 2100, unless more is done to stop climate change | The independent


Scientists say the world’s fishing fleet will catch around 25 billion fewer fish per year by the end of the century if global warming continues on its current course.

If countries meet their current commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, the planet’s average temperature is expected to rise by about 3.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by 2100, well beyond the point where the climate change produces much more dangerous weather conditions.

Rapidly warming oceans have already contributed to the collapse of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery and other changes in the marine world, the researchers said.

After examining the effects on 892 different species eaten by humans, they concluded that each degree of warming could potentially cause a drop of 3.4 million tonnes in the weight of fish caught each year, they reported in the newspaper. Science.

Global fish catches are currently around 109 million metric tonnes.

One of the researchers, environmental physicist Dr Thomas Frölicher, from ETH University in Zurich, said there was a clear relationship between greenhouse gases and a reduction in fish catches.

“Changes in ocean conditions that affect fish stocks, such as temperature and oxygen concentration, are strongly linked to atmospheric warming and carbon emissions,” he said.

“For every metric tonne of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, the maximum capture potential decreases dramatically. “

The effects would vary considerably between different regions of the world.

For example, fishing boats in the Norwegian Sea might initially see an increase in their catches as the temperature rises.

But the Indo-Pacific region – heavily dependent on fishing as a source of income and food – is expected to lose nearly half of its fisheries if global warming reaches 3.5 ° C.

Professor William Cheung, from the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia, said: “In some areas they are really sensitive to this warming. If we go beyond 2C, the fishing impact levels will increase much faster.

“The populations of coastal communities [of the Indo-Pacific] are heavily dependent on seafood for nutrients essential to their health.

“With this decrease in the size of the potential fish supply, it could put them at risk of nutritional insecurity. People depend heavily on fish for their food and livelihoods.

Professor Cheung, who is scientific director of the Nippon Foundation-Nereus program, said their research shows the importance of trying to stick to the Paris agreement on climate change ambition to limit global warming. at a level as close as possible to 1.5 ° C.

This would see global catches fall by 2.5 percent, compared to 8 percent if they reached 3.5 ° C.

In a comment associated with ScienceUniversity of Tasmania’s Dr Elizabeth Fulton wrote that the world is still a long way from hitting the lower end.

“The current climate commitments under the Paris Agreement do not provide for the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to keep temperatures below 2 ° C, let alone 1.5 ° C”, she declared.

“But for those people who rely on the nearly 25 billion seafood meals lost each year if we allow temperatures to rise 3.5 ° C, the imperative to act seems clear.

“Humans today are better equipped to make evidence-based decisions than at any point in our collective history, and all of this evidence tells us that deferring the decision to act is a lesson. expensive to take. “

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Bev O’Kane, fisheries scientist at the Marine Conservation Society, called for action.

“The difference between warming our planet by 1.5 degrees and 3.5 degrees is glaring,” she said.

“It is therefore crucial that the commitments to limit the rise in temperatures are respected.

“The reduced catches and species changes found in the world’s oceans will hit developing countries hardest with coastal communities that depend on fishing, but given that the majority of our seafood in the UK is now imported, with greater changes in the world’s oceans, we can expect less fish catches and more expensive seafood options in the future. “

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Barry Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, said the biggest impact on UK fishing has been the reduction in the number of fish caught, which has allowed many species to recover significantly.

“We recognize this [climate change] is a major factor for the future, but it’s a bit out of our hands as a fishing industry per se, ”he said.

“We’re not dismissing it, but it’s not of immediate concern to us. We do not see any effects that would make us worried about the immediate future. “

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