Climate change may change the menu at seafood restaurants

May 15, 2013 at 6:52 PM
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VICTORIA, British Columbia, May 15 (UPI) -- Climate change and warming oceans are gradually changing which fish are being featured in seafood markets around the world, Canadian researchers say.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia report they found global fisheries catches were increasingly dominated by warm-water species as a result of fish migrating towards the poles in response to rising ocean temperatures.

"The composition of the [global] fish catch includes more and more fish from the warmer areas, and cold water fish are getting more rare, because the temperatures are increasing," study co-author Daniel Pauly said.

While the changes aren't obvious to American consumers shopping at U.S. markets -- because 80 percent of our seafood is imported -- data on fish catches from around the world show it's happening everywhere the ocean is warming, the researchers said.

"One way for marine animals to respond to ocean warming is by moving to cooler regions," study lead author William Cheung said. "As a result, places like New England on the northeast coast of the United States saw new species typically found in warmer waters, closer to the tropics."

Many fish will have a hard time adapting to this very rapid change, Pauly said, which will affect people around the world who depend on fish for a significant source of protein.

"We've been talking about climate change as if it's something that's going to happen in the distant future -- our study shows that it has been affecting our fisheries and oceans for decades," he said. "These global changes have implications for everyone in every part of the planet."

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