A recent study suggests that rising sea temperatures may soon trigger a large-scale shift of fish and other ocean dwellers, pushing animals towards the poles. But in the process, poor nations at the Equator which rely on fish to survive would become even poorer.
A group of researchers from four top U.S. universities found that as fish will move farther north millions of people at the Equator would be left without their primary food source.
Malin Pinsky, lead author of the study and biologist at Rutgers University, explained that while climate change pushes fish stock toward higher latitudes, poor nations may become poorer while rich nations, which tend to be in cooler regions, would become even richer as they gain access to more natural resources.
Researchers published their work Feb. 24 in Nature Climate Change. They based their findings on fish migration data and statistical models that measured the shifts in fish’s migration patterns and in coastal nations’ wealth.
This latest study confirms what a separate study had found in 2014, when a group of researchers at of the University of British Columbia in Canada found that the Equator may become ‘fishless’ by the middle of the century. Back then, UBC’s William Cheung, lead author of the study, noted that the worst hit regions by the change would be the tropics.
He explained that nations in the region heavily rely on fish for food, so when the fish are gone coastal communities and entire nations will have nothing to put on their plates. Researchers said that the change would send ripple effects across all fisheries and coastal communities at the tropics.
Cheung’s team based their findings on data provided by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Researchers used the data in computer simulations to learn how bad a sea temperature rise of one degree C (33.8 degrees F) would impact 800 species of fish and other marine animals.
Computer models showed that at a 1 degree temperature rise, fish would draw 10 feet nearer to the poles every decade. In the worst case scenario, i.e. if global sea temperatures jump 3 degrees C (37.4 F), fish would be pushed 16 feet toward the poles every decade.
Furthermore the 2014 study was a response to a 2013 research paper published in the journal Nature. That study matched fish and marine animal species with different water temperatures, those animals thrive in. The 2013 study concluded that because global fish catches currently abound in warm-water species, this was concrete proof that rising sea temperatures are happening right under our nose.
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