The salmon population in the southern Pacific is in danger of disappearing due to climate change, according to a new study.
The research, released Tuesday, said a warming world is likely to mean less salmon in both the northern and southern oceans.
“We know the northern Pacific is a particularly vulnerable area to climate extremes and warming because of the very low population density in the northern part of the region,” said study co-author Dr. Paul M. Pascual, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
“The southern Pacific may be much more vulnerable because it is home to some of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world.”
In the study, scientists analyzed the health of fish stocks in the northeastern Pacific, the western Pacific, and the northern Atlantic.
They found that warmer temperatures in the north mean more fish are moving south.
“It is a combination of factors,” Pascua said.
“The northern Pacific tends to have more warming than the southern part of it, and there is a bit of a mismatch between the two.”
The study is the first to look at what happens when fish are moved south, and scientists say that’s a problem because climate change is likely causing warmer temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts to push fish farther south.
The study also said it is very likely the climate changes are affecting the distribution of fish in the western Atlantic and Atlantic, which has a much larger fish population than the northern or southern parts of the Atlantic.
“If you move fish closer to the coast, they’re going to be in more severe problems because they’re closer to salt water,” Pescua said, “and if you move them further away, they will be more in the tropics where they are exposed to higher temperatures and therefore higher acidification.”
Pescua and his colleagues used a computer model to simulate the effect of climate change on fish populations and determined that the northern portion of the Pacific Ocean is likely more vulnerable to climate-driven changes than the western and southern portions of the same region.
The Pacific is one of the worlds largest fisheries, accounting for about a third of the world’s fish.
Pescual said the study is a warning shot to the global fish community.
“What we’re doing is trying to figure out what the implications of this is going to look like in the future,” he said.
“There’s really no way of knowing exactly what will happen but we’re hoping that it will be beneficial to the fish population in general.”
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