Marine heatwaves exacerbate climate change impacts for fisheries in the northeast Pacific

Last modified: 
April 28, 2020 - 2:32pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2020
Date published: 12/2020
Authors: William Cheung, Thomas Frölicher
Journal title: Scientific Reports
Volume: 10
Issue: 1

Marine heatwaves (MHWs) have occurred in all ocean basins with severe negative impacts on coastal and ocean ecosystems. The northeast Pacific 2013–2015 MHW in particular received major societal concerns. Yet, our knowledge about how MHWs impact fish stocks is limited. Here, we combine outputs from a large ensemble simulation of an Earth system model with a fish impact model to simulate responses of major northeast Pacific fish stocks to MHWs. We show that MHWs cause biomass decrease and shifts in biogeography of fish stocks that are at least four times faster and bigger in magnitude than the effects of decadal-scale mean changes throughout the 21st century. With MHWs, we project a doubling of impact levels by 2050 amongst the most important fisheries species over previous assessments that focus only on long-term climate change. Our results underscore the additional challenges from MHWs for fisheries and their management under climate change.

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