Economic Impact of Climate Change on Global Fisheries Worse Than We Thought

A study conducted by a team of scientists from the University of British Columbia (UBC), published last month in the journal Scientific Reports, explores the potential economic impacts of climate change as it affects the amount and composition of fish in marine fisheries and leads to decreased catches. Previous research has shown that global warming will cause changes in ocean temperatures, sea ice extent, salinity, and oxygen levels, among other impacts, that are likely to lead to significant shifts in the distribution range and productivity of marine species, the study notes.

In all, the UBC researchers found that global fisheries could lose approximately $10 billion in annual revenue by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked—a 10 percent decrease, which is 35 percent more than has been previously estimated. Countries that are most dependent on fisheries to feed their populations will experience the biggest impacts, according to the study. The largest average decrease in maximum catch potential will occur in small island countries like Tuvalu, which is expected to see a 79 percent drop in annual catches in its waters, and Kiribati, which is projected to see a 70 percent decrease. On the other hand, some developed countries, such as Greenland and Iceland, could see revenue increases as fish move into cooler waters.

Many communities are considering aquaculture, or fish farming, as a means of easing the financial burden of fishing losses and improving food security as global temperatures continue to rise. But the UBC researchers examined the growing aquaculture industry and found it may actually exacerbate the negative impact on revenues by driving down the price of seafood, leading to further decreases in fisheries revenues.  The researchers concluded, “Our results suggest the need to conduct full-fledged economic analyses of the potential economic effects of climate change on global marine fisheries.”

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