Struggling Fish Stocks

The Lempert Report
January 19, 2016

It’s no secret that eating seafood is good for us, but will there be enough to go around after El Niño?

A new study published in December found that due to a decline in micro algae in our waters around the globe, there is a shortage of food available for young fish which is causing them to die within days. The data comes from a global database of 262 commercial fish stocks in dozens of large marine ecosystems around the globe.

Where is this problem the worst? The North Atlantic, which supplies most of the flounder, sole and cod. Not only is the availability of micro algae a problem, but also these larger fish - who are able to reproduce the largest quantity of eggs are being over fished and killed before they are able to lay their eggs to reproduce.

Back to El Nino. Rebecca Asch, a researcher at Princeton University studied data from 1951 to 2008 on 43 species of fish off the Southern California coast and discovered that many have actually changed the season when they spawn, which makes the availability of micro algae less available as well the result of the change in ocean temperatures.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will tell us just how bad the situation is in their Fish Stock Climate Vulnerability Assessment report due to be published over the next few weeks in early 2016. Preliminary reports from the lead researcher indicated that of the 82 species studied in the Northeast, about half are experiencing a negative impact associated with climate change, and about one-fifth actually have a positive impact - like the Atlantic Croacker, which has a firm-flakey mild tasting white meat.