Icefish Adaptations to Climate Change on the South Georgia Island Shelf (Sub-Antarctic)

Abstract

Icefish populations continue to decline. Historical as well as current over-exploitations of stocks aggravated by climate change are frequently seen as responsible for the decline. However, natural oscillations in Antarctic fish and krill populations associated with natural climatic fluctuations, co-occurring with fisheries exploitation hinder determining the reasons for the population changes and the extent that long-term climate change may play in it. Based on data collected from South Shetland and South Orkney Islands (2956 fish stations) and South Georgia Island (2460 fish stations) covering a period from 1976 to 2017 we sought to relate decreases in krill and icefish populations to predator-prey interactions coupled with global warming influences. Our results show that the situation is complex and that many factors, e.g., competition between different icefish species, food choice and availability, and growth parameters, need to be considered. Pseudochaenichthys georgianus and Chaenocephalus aceratus biomasses, for example, oscillate in opposite directions and the two species differ with regard to the ranges they occupy in cold and warm water years. This reduces their competition for food, so that their combined biomasses oscillate little with thermal changes.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all those that were involved with the collection of the material, and all who offered help and advice throughout this study. RT further gratefully acknowledges the support received from the Sea Fisheries Institute, Imperial College, University of London, the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Gdansk. For their hospitality during a brief visit in the Austral summer of the year 2000, VBM-R thanks the staff of Poland’s Antarctic Arctowski Base and acknowledges the support received from Profesor Chuleui Jung via the Basic Science Research Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (NRF- 2018R1A6A1A03024862) to complete this study.

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Traczyk, R., Meyer-Rochow, V.B. & Hughes, R.M. Icefish Adaptations to Climate Change on the South Georgia Island Shelf (Sub-Antarctic). Ocean Sci. J. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12601-020-0016-8

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Keywords

  • Antarctica
  • global warming
  • cold and warm year oscillations
  • fish population
  • stock assessment