Fish Seek Cooler Waters, Leaving Some Fishermen’s Nets Empty Helene graham

Summary of Article: The article describes the effects that climate change has on American fisheries, particularly in the Northeast, and how many species of fish have been migrating to cooler waters further north or further outward as ocean temperatures rise. This shift in fish populations is not just making a lot of fisherman lose money––it is also causing confusion in fishing regulations and the limits set for fisheries in certain areas. These regulations do not take into account the changing ocean ecosystems and how they affect fish. For example, even though, because of fish migrations, there is the greatest abundance of fish in New Jersey, North Carolina still has the rights to the largest share. These North Carolina fishermen now have trouble meeting their quotas; meanwhile, fishermen in New Jersey that are now able to catch more fish end up throwing a lot of the catch overboard because of fishing limits.

This has caused financial hardships for fishermen and tensions between them, government regulators, fishery managers, and scientists, many of which advocate that fishing quota allocations should move with fish populations. Scientists and many fishery managers have been working together to try and reform the system to better take into account these temperature and migration changes when setting regulations. They hope to switch to what is called ecosystem-based management, where the focus is on maintaining a stable ecosystem and basing fishing quotas off of marine species type.

Analysis of Article: The article sheds light on yet another unforeseen impact of climate change. Marine organisms are especially vulnerable when it comes to changing temperatures. The migration of fish follows from these species not being able to further survive in warming waters. The effects this has had on fishing may just be one economic consequence. Tourism may shift as the species people come to see––like whales––move, or as attractions like coral reefs are disintegrated through ocean acidification. Most directly, rising sea levels will affect coastal communities in all sorts of ways. For more information on the effects of climate change on the economy, check out this webpage.

Although scientists and many fishery managers have been working together to try and reform the regulation system to better take into account temperature and migration changes, much progress is still to be made. But failure in these departments isn't necessarily for a lack of trying; the article stressed that measuring fish populations is extremely difficult. Pinpointing the source of changing populations is even harder, since scientists have to figure out if a reduction in population size is due to overfishing, migration, or other factors. It is another hurtle to overcome as the effects of climate change become clearer.

My Big "Takeaway": I have never thought about fishing being affected by migrations due to global warming before––if anything, I would have assumed it was due to overfishing. I knew of other effects of warming ocean temperatures––like ocean acidification and how it affects the skeletons and shells of some organisms, or the risk of floods and melting ice caps––but, because I generally think of animals (apart from birds) as being rather stationary in their established habitat. However, I assume that there will be some species that end up thriving in warmer temperatures. I wonder if, in the future, the waters around New York will be filled with much more tropical fish. That makes the whole thing sound more exciting than it is––really, it's a scary prospect, especially knowing that many species will die out, either because they can't find temperatures to accommodate them, or because they won't be able to compete with other species. While it is important to support fisherman and try to adjust regulations to make sense with our changing environment, finding a long-term solution to warming waters is even more crucial.


Created with images by djedj - "boat barque fishing-boat" • Pexels - "animals close-up fishes" • USFWS Headquarters - "School of tuna"

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