Fisheries in a warming ocean: trends in fish catches in the large marine ecosystems of the world

Abstract

Trends in annual catches of fish species in the large marine ecosystems (LMEs) of the world were analysed, relating them with changes in sea surface temperature. LMEs are large coastal areas with broad ecosystem similarities, and the vast majority of them have warmed in the period of 1982–2006. Changes in sea water temperature, induced by climate change, affect the geographic distribution of fish species in marine ecosystems. Shifts in distribution of fish will most likely affect the abundance, distribution and composition of fisheries catches. In the present paper, a decreasing trend in the catches of fish species in warming LMEs was observed. Catches in years of cold and warm winters were compared for each of the eight fish species most caught in the world. Generally, mean catches of polar and temperate species were higher in years of warm winters in the LMEs located in the northern part of the species range and in years of cold winters in LMEs of the southern regions of their ranges. Mean catches of subtropical species were higher in cold years in LMEs of lower latitudes and in warm years in LMEs of higher latitude regions. The results obtained for fish catches agree with a poleward shift of fish species as a response to ocean warming, posing challenges for future fisheries management.

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Acknowledgments

This study had the support of the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) (Pest-OE/MAR/UI0199/2011). Rita Gamito was funded with a PhD Grant (SFRH/BD/78363/2011) by the FCT. We thank Catarina Vinagre for discussions and comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rita Gamito.

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Editor: Wolfgang Cramer.

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Gamito, R., Costa, M.J. & Cabral, H.N. Fisheries in a warming ocean: trends in fish catches in the large marine ecosystems of the world. Reg Environ Change 15, 57–65 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-014-0615-y

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Fish
  • Fisheries
  • Large marine ecosystems
  • Sea surface temperature