Cod, pollock, and haddock in baskets waiting to get counted and measured

OCEANS

Climate Change Shrinks Many Fisheries Globally, Rutgers-Led Study Finds

Researchers find losses as high as 35 percent in some regions

RUTGERS TODAY–Climate change has taken a toll on many of the world’s fisheries, and overfishing has magnified the problem, according to a Rutgers-led study in the journal Science today.

Ocean warming led to an estimated 4.1 percent drop in sustainable catches, on average, for many species of fish and shellfish from 1930 to 2010. In five regions of the world, including the East China Sea and North Sea, the estimated decline was 15 percent to 35 percent, the study says.

“We recommend that fisheries managers eliminate overfishing, rebuild fisheries and account for climate change in fisheries management decisions,” said Chris Free, who led the research while earning a doctorate at Rutgers and is now a postdoctoral scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Policymakers can prepare for regional disparities in fish catches by establishing trade agreements and partnerships to share seafood between winning and losing regions.”

Seafood has become an increasingly important source of nourishment as the world population has grown, especially in coastal, developing countries where it provides up to half the animal protein eaten. More than 56 million people worldwide work in the fisheries industry or subsist on fisheries.

“We were stunned to find that fisheries around the world have already responded to ocean warming,” said Malin Pinsky, study coauthor and associate professor in Rutgers’ Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources. “These aren’t hypothetical changes sometime in the future.”

The study reports that the effects of ocean warming have been negative for many species, but also finds that other species have benefited from warming waters.

“Fish populations can only tolerate so much warming, though,” said senior author Olaf Jensen, an associate professor in Rutgers’ Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. “Many of the species that have benefited from warming so far are likely to start declining as temperatures continue to rise.”
Scientists at Rutgers–New Brunswick and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studied the impact of ocean warming on 235 populations of 124 species in 38 ecological regions around the world. Species included fish, crustaceans such as shrimp, and mollusks such as sea scallops.

The scientists combined global data on fisheries with ocean temperature maps to estimate temperature-driven changes in the sustainable catch (known as the maximum sustainable yield) from 1930 to 2010. Their analysis covered about one third of the reported global catch, and losing species outweighed the winners as the oceans warmed.

The greatest losses were in the Sea of Japan, North Sea, Iberian Coastal, Kuroshio Current and Celtic-Biscay Shelf regions. The greatest gains occurred in the Labrador-Newfoundland, Baltic Sea, Indian Ocean and Northeast U.S. Shelf regions.

“Something I think is unique about this study is that we quantified effects that have already occurred to fisheries, rather than forecasting the future, which is much more fraught with uncertainty,” said coauthor Kiva Oken, a former postdoctoral scholar at Rutgers who is now a scientist at the University of Washington.

Overfishing provides a one-two punch to fisheries facing warming waters. Overfishing not only makes fisheries more vulnerable to ocean warming, but continued warming will also hinder efforts to rebuild overfished populations, the study says.

An important next step is to understand the impacts of ocean warming on tropical regions, where data are limited, according to Free. These regions rely heavily on coastal fisheries as a source of food and livelihoods. Another important step is to learn more about other potential impacts on ocean fisheries. Aside from ocean temperatures, ocean oxygen content, acidity and productivity are also changing and may influence fisheries.

John Wiedenmann, an assistant professor in Rutgers’ Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, and Jim Thorson at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center contributed to the study.

Meet the Climate Corps

Angel Alguera, Rutgers Climate CorpsAngel Alguera
I am a first-year Atmospheric Science master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and my work focuses on meteorology and applications of climate change resiliency. My professional interests include severe weather forecasting and community preparedness regarding weather-related disasters. I work with Dr. James Shope at the NJ Climate Change Resource Center to produce applied research and reports relevant to New Jersey stakeholders. I currently assist with climate change data analysis, large dataset management, and report writing.

Benjamin GoldbergBenjamin Goldberg
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, with experience in sustainable food systems. I joined the Climate Corps last summer to help develop a GIS-based food waste recovery tool, and currently support community resilience through flood vulnerability analysis. I hold a B.A. from Middlebury College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.

Surya Jacob, Rutgers Climate CorpsSurya Jacob
I am a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School concentrating in community development, focused on housing, land and finance, as well as pursuing the Real Estate Development/Redevelopment Certification. Prior to Bloustein, I worked as an architect and interior designer in India and Canada and am pivoting towards a career in urban planning to engage in extensive projects at the macro level. My interests include affordable and mixed income housing, urban redevelopment, and housing finance, and I am deeply passionate about climate resilience in community planning. Being part of Climate Corps is a foundational step towards helping to solve equity issues in vulnerable communities along the coastal region.

Vineesh Das Kodakkandathil, RutgersVineesh Das Kodakkandathil
I am an urban planner with five years of professional experience in community-led ecotourism development and land use and environment management planning in ecologically sensitive areas. I have worked on and conducted extensive environmental sensitivity analyses, flood and landslide vulnerability assessments, and human impact assessments with the help of GIS tools. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in City and Regional Planning at Bloustein School with a concentration in Transport Planning and GIS.

Douglas LeungDouglas Leung
I am working with the Climate Change Resource Center to identify vulnerable communities and places affected by climate-induced flooding in coastal New Jersey municipalities. I am a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a planner, I want to develop strategies and solve problems affecting our cities and communities that enable more equitable outcomes in housing and transportation. I am also a recent Army veteran, having served as a company commander of recruiting in the northern suburbs of Chicago and as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division. For fun, I enjoy weightlifting, running, reading fiction, and board games.

Nihar MhatreNihar Mhatre
I am a master’s candidate in city and regional planning at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, focusing on urban design and land use planning. Before being accepted at Rutgers, I worked as an architect at JD Studio and had my own architectural practice, Vastu Insights. My research interests revolve around designing and developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies to promote equity in urban landscapes. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects through Climate Corps will be an essential step in the development of my understanding of addressing climate change issues in vulnerable regions.

Josephine O'GradyJosephine O’Grady
I am a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Through the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) certification, I am focusing a significant portion of my graduate coursework on topics including coastal geomorphology, environmental justice, and hazard mitigation planning. Before beginning my studies at the Bloustein School, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health from Kean University, where I first became interested in how coastal dynamics shape lived experiences. I previously served as an intern at the New Jersey State Policy Lab and currently work for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Jessica Parineet Jessica Parineet
I am a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Bloustein School with a strong interest in climate change policy and related topics. In my previous work, I gained experience in a number of dimensions of climate change issues through carbon capture storage research, urban heat island research, and community level engagement as I am currently on the Student Advisory Board for the Rutgers Office of Climate Action. I am excited to expand on my interests in environmental justice and local level resilience planning through my involvement in the Climate Corps.

Dillon Patel Dillan Patel
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Environmental Planning and International Development. I have previously worked as an economist performing cost-benefit analysis and conducting monitoring and evaluation for renewable energy in developing countries. I have also spent a summer in western Massachusetts mapping stormwater infrastructure and working with planners to identify suitable places for green stormwater infrastructure.

Moira Sweeder, Rutgers Climate CorpsMoira Sweeder
I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. My concentration is environmental planning with a focus on coastal resilience. Before pursuing my master’s degree at Rutgers, I studied sustainability at Stockton University. During this time, I interned for the PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, and NJ Audubon. I am thrilled to now be a part of the Climate Corps, researching coastal resilience as a part of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.