Even if you’re not a weather buff, you’ve probably caught wind that the strongest El Niño event in twenty years is coming right for us. Its impacts will be both positive and negative, largely depending on your geographic location and how much you enjoy snow. The coming El Niño could be a benefit to many in the West, as it’s projected to provide some relief to the severe drought in California. However, one subpopulation of the earth won’t be thrilled about the warm ocean water that causes the climate to shift. Essentially, El Niño is going to cause a lot of fish to go hungry. That’s not just bad for the fish, but also for the other ocean dwellers who rely on them for food.
Sea life in the Pacific Ocean is already in trouble due to a “blob” of warm water stretching from California to Alaska. The enormous El Niño—which scientists have dubbed “Godzilla”—that is coming will bring an influx of more warm water, making the situation for fish in this region really quite dire. Fish that would normally thrive in cold, if not icy, coastal waters are downright suffering in the warmer waves, and higher ocean temperatures are leading to other events, like blooms of toxic red algae, that further inhibit sea critters from enjoying their daily swims.
There is really no way to accurately predict what kind of toll the coming El Niño season will have on aquatic life, but scientists say the effects are already being noted. “Already some of the stocks that have been coming back are showing big declines,” says Laurie Weitkamp, a fisheries researcher at at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries research center in Oregon, as reported in Wired. She went on to say: “We won’t know the full impact on salmon or crab for a few years but I think they are going to do terribly.”
What devastation the increase in warm water will leave on the fish remains to be seen, and the effects are likely to be lasting. The impact will likely create a huge imbalance in ocean eco-systems as well as food chains, and that fact alone is certainly enough to raise concern. However, it will also likely make things difficult for commercial fishermen, too. We like to think that’s just one more reason to stop eating fish, but that alone isn’t going to save us from future climate change-related events like this.
Images via Shutterstock and NOAA