The old adage “there are plenty more fish in the sea” might not be true in the year 2300


Robert Fletcher / courtesy of Columbia University

Scientist from the University of California at Irvine, recently published the results of new climate change models that predict a 50% reduction in fisheries in the western Pacific Ocean by the year 2300.  This research published in Science, indicates that melting of polar sea ice over the next 300 years will drastically alter wind and ocean currents and indirectly result in a 20% decline in the global fishery and a 60% reduction in north Atlantic fisheries.  The computer simulations used in this research predict a 9.6 degree Celsius (17 degree F) increase in average surface air temperatures and virtually no sea ice in the polar regions.  The effect of all this melting ice and sea surface warming will be large-scale changes in how marine nutrients are moved around the globe.  Northern marine ecosystems will be starved of nutrients, leading to less primary production by phytoplankton (because phytoplakton need nutrients to grow and photosynthesize), then fewer small fish (because small fish eat phytoplankton), then fewer large fish (because large fish eat small fish).  While northern ecosystems are being starved of nutrients, southern ecosystems will have lots.  The researchers predict that the combination of no floating ice (which blocks and reflects sunlight), increased nutrients and warmer temperatures mean more plankton growth near Antarctica.  The lead author of the paper says that there is still time to avoid this oceanographic catastrophe by reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas pollutants.

Link to the Science article here.

Photo by Bernhard Staehli

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