Fishing is booming in the Pacific Ocean, and it is taking advantage of a change in climate, a new study says.
But fish stocks are at risk, with a global population of about 400 million people expected to reach 1 billion by 2050.
“We have to be aware of the fact that there is a large potential for overfishing in the future,” says Professor David Trewavas, of the University of British Columbia’s School of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at the effects of climate change on tuna catches and their potential impacts on the marine ecosystem. “
This is a huge challenge.”
The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at the effects of climate change on tuna catches and their potential impacts on the marine ecosystem.
It shows that if global temperatures continue to rise and sea levels rise, fish stocks will be at risk of decline, according to Trewaas.
“The fishing industry has been looking for a way to manage their future, and one way to do that is to have more fish,” he says.
Trewaats study showed that the number of fish caught in the world has risen from about 730 million to more than 1 billion, which could increase fishing pressure in some areas.
“If you do nothing, the fishing industry is at a risk, because you’re going to have a lot less fish,” Trewas says.
“In the future, you’re probably going to see a lot more of them.”
Trewas’ research was conducted at the University and the US Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Science Laboratories, and the scientists looked at the fishing of fish species from around the world.
Trees, corals and crustaceans are the most common fish caught, with more than 80 per cent of the world fishing population, or 1.2 billion people, being caught in these marine environments.
The researchers looked at data on the number and type of catches and the types of species caught and the potential impacts to the marine ecosystems they live in.
Tables, which measure catches, fish and the impact of fishing on marine ecosystems, have been used in research before, but the authors say they used new technology to analyse the data.
Troy Pendergrass, a marine ecologist at the Queensland Government-funded Australian Centre for Coral Reef Studies, said the study was an important contribution to understanding the impacts of climate on fisheries.
“There’s been a lot of work done, and I think it’s been very useful to see how the oceans are responding to climate change,” he said.
“I think it was important to take a look at a larger sample of fish and how they respond to different conditions and how the fishing is impacting on those fish.”
Pendergrass said the researchers also looked at trends in the global catch of tuna and the extent to which fish stocks had recovered over the past decade.
Tuna is one of the most profitable fish to catch, earning a lot in fish-finishing fees, he said, and could be one of several key industries to diversify in the face of a rising population.
“That is a significant industry, because of the money that people spend, and we’re seeing that change,” Penderfield said.
“I would hope that this work could help us to think about what we’re doing right, and make better decisions.”
In some regions, tuna stocks are already on the brink of collapse.
Tunisia is the world leader in tuna catches, and has been hit by record numbers of fishing boats in recent years, according the Global Fishery Information Service (GFIS).
But this has not stopped a huge influx of fishermen from the Gulf of Guinea.
In the past three years, the number has surged by 200,000, to more to 1.4 million fish.
“What has happened is the Gulf has become very rich in fish, and there’s been an increase in the number,” Penders study co-author and marine biologist Robert Coughlan said.
“They’re able to get away with it because they’ve got a lot to do.”
Penders study looked at a range of variables, including fishing gear, catches, the types and abundance of fish, how long the fish were in the water, and other factors.
It found that over the last decade, tuna catches have declined by about one third, and stocks have recovered only slightly.
Coughlan also said that, while the global fishing industry could manage a decline in fish numbers, it would take decades for it to recover.
“It is likely to take decades to recover from the impacts that we’ve seen, and then to recover fully,” he explained.
“But it could be as long as a decade or more.”
Coughlin said it was unlikely that fishermen in some countries would be able to recover to pre-industrial levels, and warned that more research was needed to understand the causes of the recent increase in fishing.