Ocean warming may cause small states in the Pacific Islands to struggle economically due to fish loss. A recent study published in the journal Nature Sustainability has found that tuna caught in 10 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will decline by an average of 20% by 2050. The study also found that all the 10 islands will be affected and may struggle economically as a result.
As waters closer to the equator warm, tuna and other sea species move out in search of a favorable environment. According to Johann Bell, the lead author of the study and a senior director at Conservation International’s Center for Oceans, fish can only live in conditions that suit their physiology.
“All fish have preferred water temperatures, i.e., temperatures that suit their physiology best and which provide optimum conditions for growth and reproduction,” Bell said.
Conservation International’s Center for Oceans is a nonprofit organization that works to protect nature through science. The organization uses scientific data to show changes in nature and urge policymakers to make critical choices.
Bell explains that tuna follow other species favorable for prey. He says when the ocean warms, other species may move outward in search of cooler waters. Tuna have to follow such species, or they may fail to find food and experience stunted growth.
The study looked at two key species of tuna: skipjack and yellowfin. These are the main target species for large-scale fishers in the Pacific Islands region. Researchers found that these species will progressively continue moving eastwards as the waters get warm. As a result, the species will only be available in high seas and regions outside the jurisdiction of SIDS.
Most states in the Pacific Islands depend on fishing as a main economic activity. If the most popular fish species moves away from the area, locals will struggle economically.
For a long time, scientists have warned that the effects of global warming will be more economically costly than any amount invested in combating climate change. The tuna conundrum is just one example of how this issue manifests.
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