A new study by the University of British Columbia says climate change could result in a 50 per cent reduction in the fish catch for First Nations along B.C.’s coast.
“The loss of the salmon fishery in particular would be very difficult and disorienting from a cultural perspective, but also from the perspective of a stable food source,” said Tom McCarthy, chief administrative officer of the Tsawwassen First Nation.
William Cheung, associate professor at UBC and co-author of the study, said they looked at 98 species of fish and shellfish important to First Nations fisheries. They wanted to find out how badly coastal communities would be impacted if marine life they depend on left their traditional fishing grounds in search of cooler waters to the north.
The study found that coastal First Nations communities could suffer losses between $6.7 and $12 million every year by 2050, and that the losses would be most felt in communities in the southern part of the province.
“Overall, species are shifting northward, around 18 kilometres a decade,” said Cheung, who says the temperature of waters in the northeast Pacific Ocean are set to increase by one degree Celsius.
“With unmitigated climate change, current fish habitats are expected to become less suitable for many species that are culturally important for British Columbia’s coastal communities.”
The study, led by scientists at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, was published in PLOS ONE.
– With files from Linda Aylesworth