Fish Are Relocating Toward The Poles To Avoid Warming Waters | KUOW News and Information

Fish Are Relocating Toward The Poles To Avoid Warming Waters

Oct 14, 2014
Originally published on October 13, 2014 4:16 pm

SEATTLE -- If you can’t take the heat… head to the poles. That’s what fish are doing anyway.

A new study published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science looked at historical data for more than 800 commercial fisheries around the world and found that fish are heading to deeper waters and higher latitudes as the world's oceans warm.

Cheung's modeling suggests that if carbon emission rates remain the same, fish populations will relocate -- moving an average rate of 26 kilometers per decade in search of cooler waters. He said fish that live closer to the surface will be under more pressure to head to cooler waters than fish that live at greater depth. Surface waters, globally, are warming more rapidly, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This past summer, salmon fishermen in the Northwest got a taste of what’s to come.

A patch of warm water has been lingering off the Washington coast and into the Gulf of Alaska for much of the summer, caused by mild weather and less mixing in the Pacific Ocean.

To avoid the "blob" as it's been called, sockeye salmon headed home to the Fraser River via a cooler northern route that took them up around the top of Vancouver Island. Only a fraction of the mighty run went home via the southern route, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into Puget Sound, dealing a blow to commercial and tribal fishermen alike.

"There was nothing that came through, literally," said Richard Parrick, a fisherman from Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. "Normally there’s sockeye just pulling through where I live in late June through mid-July. I have friends who couldn’t even make enough money to cover their fuel."

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