How Is Climate Change Affecting the Fishing Industry?

Climate change is harming marine fisheries and related operations, reducing fish stocks and changing which fish are available to be caught in certain regions. 

These three factors are the most prominent:

  • Ocean warming and acidification 
  • Declining oxygen in sea water
  • Shrinking sea ice cover

Ocean warming and acidification

Warmer and more acidic oceans make fish more susceptible to disease and drive them out of their normal habitat. Zooplankton, which some fish eat as a main food source, have trouble calcifying their shells. Acidification may also threaten eggs and larvae. Species that are overfished have less genetic diversity and may be smaller. Therefore, they can be even more susceptible as a group to climate change. This means fisheries would have fewer resources to take to market.

Learn more: Acidification and warming

Declining oxygen in sea water

Lower levels of oxygen in sea water reduce growth rates and make it less likely fish will successfully reproduce. Some fish species will migrate out of their normal location, searching for more oxygen-rich waters. Not all fisheries have the means to adjust or relocate, so this migration can be devastating for marine industries. 

Learn more: Ocean oxygen 

Shrinking sea ice cover

As sea ice cover declines, it can affect the ice algae many fish depend on to survive in those climates. Fishing vessels would have to increasingly sail north to follow fish that once had that ice cover. Ocean circulation slows due to Arctic melt; this could affect surface nutrients.

Learn more: Sea ice and fish

Key takeaways 

  • Climate change has made oceans warmer and more acidic, harming fish populations and challenging fisheries.
  • Warming may cause some fish to become more vulnerable to overfishing.

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