Increase in size, frequency of ocean storms a threat to global fisheries

Increase in size, frequency of ocean storms a threat to global fisheries

June 25 (UPI) — Fishermen around the world will face an influx of larger, more powerful ocean storms, new research suggests.

In an effort to understand how global warming and its resulting shifts in weather patterns could influence global fisheries, scientists at the University of Exeter analyzed predictions made by a variety of climate change models.

Many studies have suggested rising atmospheric and ocean temperatures, as well as a slowdown in atmospheric currents, will inspire more frequent and larger storms, especially ocean and coastal storms. The latest study — published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change — showed an uptick in large storms is likely to make fishing more dangerous. Larger storms could also damage fish habitat and disrupt fish breeding grounds.

“Storms are a threat to fishermen’s safety, productivity, assets and jobs and to the health of billions of people around the world who rely on fish for their daily nutrition,” Exeter researcher Nigel Sainsbury said in a news release. “Changing storminess could have serious consequences for vulnerable coastal communities around the world. Conducting research in this area is critical to support the adaptation of fisheries to climate change.”

The increase in storms, however, will likely not occur everywhere, according to climate models. Storms may become less frequent in the Mediterranean. But cyclones in the East China Sea and post-Monsoon storms in the Arabian Sea are likely to occur more often in the future. Fall and winter storms are also expected to increase in size and frequency in the Eastern North Atlantic.

Previous research has shown warmer ocean temperatures can help fuel storms forming in the atmosphere above, providing heat and moisture. Studies have also shown warmer air can contain more moisture, yielding larger storm clouds.

In addition to making commercial fishing operations more dangerous, storms can harm fish populations themselves. Commercial fisheries rely on sustainable fish populations.

“Our past research has shown how warming seas gradually change the composition of fisheries by shifts in distribution,” said Steve Simpson, a marine biologist at Exeter. “But storms can radically change fish populations via temporary or permanent displacement, and can interrupt fish larval dispersal and damage or destroy essential habitat that fish depend upon.”

In order to protect global fish stocks, as well as the millions of people that rely on fish for their meals and livelihood, researchers suggest more work must be done to help both fish populations and fishermen adapt to climate change.