If countries abide by the Paris Agreement global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, potential fish catches could increase by six million metric tons per year, according to a new study published in Science.
The researchers also found that some oceans are more sensitive to changes in temperature and will have substantially larger gains from achieving the Paris Agreement.
"The benefits for vulnerable tropical areas is a strong reason why 1.5 C is an important target to meet," said lead author William Cheung, director of science at the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program and associate professor at UBC's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.
"Countries in these sensitive regions are highly dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood, but all countries will be impacted as the seafood supply chain is now highly globalized. Everyone would benefit from meeting the Paris Agreement."
The authors compared the Paris Agreement 1.5 C warming scenario to the currently pledged 3.5 C by using computer models to simulate changes in global fisheries and quantify losses or gains. They found that for every degree Celsius decrease in global warming, potential fish catches could increase by more than three metric million tons per year. Previous UBC research shows that today's global fish catch is roughly 109 million metric tons.
"Changes in ocean conditions that affect fish stocks, such as temperature and oxygen concentration, are strongly related to atmospheric warming and carbon emissions," said author Thomas Frölicher, principal investigator at the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program and senior scientist at ETH Zürich. "For every metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, the maximum catch potential decreases by a significant amount."
Climate change is expected to force fish to migrate towards cooler waters. The amount and species of fish caught in different parts of the world will impact local fishers and make fisheries management more difficult.