A new study out of the University of British Columbia projects that global fisheries could lose approximately $10 billion of annual revenue due to climate change.
The losses could come as soon as 2050 if climate change continues unchecked, according to researchers from UBC’s Institute for Oceans and Fisheries.
They used climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to map the economic impact of global warming on fish stocks and fisheries revenues around the world.
If emissions continue to rise, the study found global fishing revenue could decrease by an average of 10 per cent.
If emissions are kept in line and ocean warming is kept under two degrees Celsius, revenues could be reduced by seven per cent.
“Developing countries most dependent on fisheries for food and revenue will be hardest hit,” said Vicky Lam, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Institute for Oceans and Fisheries.
These include small countries like Tokelau, the Cayman Islands, and Tuvalu.
“It is necessary to implement better marine resource management plans to increase stock resilience to climate change.”
Their conclusion is lost revenues will be passed on to consumers, who may see the price of seafood go up. By 2050, they calculate B.C. residents may be paying an additional $110 million on fish each year.
Co-author William Cheung says that while fish farming may be seen as a solution to the problem, it may actually exacerbate falling revenues.
“Rather than easing the financial burden of fishing losses and improving food security, it may drive down the price of seafood, leading to further decreases in fisheries revenues,” Cheung said.
Meanwhile, northern developed countries like Greenland and Iceland may see a boost to fishery operations as more fish migrate north to cooler waters.
But while that may sound like a bonus for British Columbia, greenhouse gas emissions cause the ocean, particularly the northern Pacific Ocean, to become acidic, which isn’t hospitable to many sea creatures.
“So it’s almost like the fish are running out of hot water into acidic water. Can you imagine that? This actually scares the hell out of me,” said UBC Professor Rashid Sumaila, an economist with Oceans Canada.
He said the only way to limit these changes on global fisheries is to change behaviours today.
“Sacrifice something today for something bigger in the future, and this is what we need to do.”