Changing temperatures will lead to large numbers of fish disappearing from the tropics by 2050, a study by scientists at the University of British Columbia in Canada suggests.
The study, published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, examined areas where fish extinction is most prevalent, but also found climate change will cause a large scale movement of fish and invertebrates into Arctic and Antarctic waters.
Should the Earth warm by 3°C by 2100, fish could move away from their current habitats at a rate of 26 kilometres per decade. If oceans warm by 1°C – which would be consistent with changes in recent decades – fish would move 15 kilometres every 10 years.
“The tropics will be the overall losers,” William Cheung, associate professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Such a shift could be economically devastating to countries in the equatorial region, as well as adversely affecting their food security.
“This area has a high dependence on fish for food, diet and nutrition. We’ll see a loss of fish populations that are important to the fisheries and communities in these regions.”
Fellow lead author Miranda Jones added, “As fish move to cooler waters, this generates new opportunities for fisheries in the Arctic. On the other hand, it means it could disrupt the species that live there now and increase competition for resources.”