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Climate Change Means Fish Are Moving Faster Than Fishing Rules, Rutgers-Led Study Says

Lobster boats anchored off Cutler, Maine. Photo: Malin Pinsky/Rutgers University-New Brunswick
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Climate change is forcing fish species to shift their habitats faster than the world’s system for allocating fish stocks, exacerbating international fisheries conflicts, according to a study led by a Rutgers University–New Brunswick researcher.

The study, published online in the journal Science today, showed for the first time that new fisheries are likely to appear in more than 70 countries all over the world as a result of climate change. History has shown that newly shared fisheries often spark conflict among nations.

Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces the food, profit and employment fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other areas beyond fisheries. A future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, like the targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would reduce the potential for conflict, the study says.

“Most people may not understand that the right to harvest particular species of fish is often decided by national and regional fisheries management bodies,” said Malin Pinsky, an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources in Rutgers–New Brunswick’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “Those bodies have made the rules based on the notion that particular fish species live in particular waters and don’t move much. Well, they’re moving now because climate change is warming ocean temperatures.”

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