The world’s system for allocating fish stocks is being outpaced by the movement of fish species in response to climate change, according to a study undertaken by an international team of marine ecologists, fisheries and social scientists, and lawyers.
“Fish fleeing warming waters will cross national boundaries and add new ‘shareholders’ to existing fisheries,” said senior author William Cheung, associate professor in UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and director of science for the Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program, which helped fund the research. “Without a pre-agreed mechanism to accommodate these unexpected fish shareholders, we could witness more international disputes over the allocation of fisheries resources.”
The study analyzed 892 fish stocks from around the world using models, developed by Cheung and his team at UBC, that show climate change is driving marine species toward the poles. They found that 70 or more countries will see new fish stocks in their waters by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory.
“Marine fishes do not have passports and are not aware of political boundaries; they will follow their future optimal habitat,” said co-author Gabriel Reygondeau, postdoctoral fellow at UBC. “Unfortunately, the potential change of distribution of highly-valuable species between two neighbouring countries will represent a challenge for fisheries management that will require new treaties to deal with transboundary fish stocks.”