Warming water caused by rising sea temperatures worldwide affects cod populations and prevents them from rebounding in the most vulnerable zones, a new study suggests. According to a new study climate change may be tied to cod’s plummeting numbers off New England despite authorities’ best efforts to reduce overfishing.
The recent study is the first research to link cod population decline to climate change and rising sea temperatures. Study authors argued that local authorities based their estimates on a faulty premise which made them overestimate the numbers of cod in the Gulf of Maine. According to the study, the real population is now around three percent of what would be a normal population.
This is why, authorities allowed fishermen and companies to overfish in the area and further contribute to the decline. In just three decades, cod population plunged 90 percent in the region.
Yet, there was another strange phenomenon researchers noticed during that period. Despite fisheries’ efforts to reduce quotas, cod populations continued to dwindle. Andrew Pershing, senior researcher involved in the study, explained that his team learned that unusually warm waters in the Gulf of Maine made life for the cod extremely hard. Additionally, authorities were too slow in their response to the changes.
In just one decade, the surface sea temperature in the area jumped 4 degrees, which is faster than in 99 percent of marine regions across the planet. The study, which was published Oct. 29 in the journal Science, suggests that the warming may be caused by a sudden shift in the Gulf of Stream and other currents in the Atlantic.
Scientists also believe that warmer waters prevented cod from reaching adulthood as the fish is a cold-water-loving creature by design. In the past, cod was so abundant off New England that locals joked that they could cross the ocean on the backs of the fish.
Researchers also think that cod is less likely to rebound because food is scarce, predators are plenty, and stress is higher. For instance, hungry seals prey on cod, while herring and dogfish prey on the fish’ larvae.
Study investigators now urge federal authorities to take into account rising sea temperatures when assessing the actual size of cod stocks. Authorities, however, said that the new findings were not a surprise.
John Bullard of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that works with local authorities to establish annual fish quotas, noted that people have suspected that global warming may affect fish stocks for decades.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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