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Global Warming Is Already Hurting Fisheries Around the World, Study Finds

One new study shows where fish populations have been hit hardest by climate change.  A second gauges how much future harm could be avoided if the Paris goals are met.

 Researchers found some of the greatest declines in fish populations in waters off Western Europe and East Asia. (Credit: Northeast Fisheries Science Center/NOAA) Click to Enlarge.

Warming ocean waters have already taken a toll on the world’s fisheries, and the impact will worsen if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, according to a pair of studies published this week.

In one study, researchers found that the maximum sustainable catch had significantly declined as the oceans warmed over the past century.  The other, looking forward, found that limiting further global warming to the Paris climate agreement goal of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius would help protect millions of tons of future catches, worth billions of dollars.

“We were stunned to find that fisheries around the world have already responded to ocean warming,” said Malin Pinsky of Rutgers University, a co-author of the study looking at the climate impact over past decades, in a written statement.  “These aren’t hypothetical changes sometime in the future.”

The study of past changes to ocean fisheries, published Thursday in the journal Science, looked at the impact of rising ocean temperatures on 124 marine species representing about one-third of the global catch from 1930 to 2010.  It found that the “maximum sustainable yield,” or the amount of fish that could be caught each year without jeopardizing future harvests, dropped by 4.1 percent over this period as a result of climate change.

The decline has a direct impact on food security and employment, especially in developing countries that rely heavily on fish. 

Read more at Global Warming Is Already Hurting Fisheries Around the World, Study Finds

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