Events & Media

Reducing the Impact of Ocean-Temperature Variability on Fish Catch

Fisheries that fish selectively for species having different traits and roles within their ocean ecosystem may be able to mitigate the damaging effects of short-term temperature variations on catches, a new study shows.

The lead author on the article is University of Minnesota postdoctoral associate and Bren School graduate Laura Dee (PhD 2015). Her co-authors included Bren School dean, Steve Gaines, as well as Bren School alumna Darcy Bradley (PhD 2016), Bren School PhD candidate Rebecca Gentry, Bren School alumna Lindsey Peavey (PhD 2015), and University of Minnesota assistant professor and Bren alumnus Steve Miller (PhD 2015). 

The study, recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows how extreme variations in temperature within a single year can lead to declines in global fish yields. Fish are an important part of the human diet, so it is important to maintain a consistent supply across marine fisheries, especially as the climate becomes more variable and demand for seafood rises to feed a growing world population.

The authors also found, however, that if fisheries seek more functional diversity in their catch — that is, a range of fish having varying abilities to cope with temperature fluctuations — overall declines in fisheries yields are less severe globally.

As the Earth’s climate changes, short-term temperature variations are likely to become more frequent. While it is well documented that the distribution of fish populations is shifting as ocean temperatures change, this study is among the first to look at how short-term variations impact seafood production, according to Dee.

Fishery managers could use the findings adapting various strategies, such as encouraging fishermen to hold permits for several different kinds of fish or to target species throughout the year to promote more diversified fishing, Dee said.

“Environmental variability is predicted to change in many places as our climate changes, so scientists and managers need to better understand the effects of short-term variability, like heat waves and extreme storms, on the benefits we receive from nature, such as food production from our oceans.”