SUFB 018: Black Sea Bass Responding to Climate Change


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On today’s podcast, I’d like to discuss an article I read this past week in the Seattle PI that deals with ecological impacts of man made climate change.

Recent studies have shown that Atlantic populations of black sea bass have started extending their range north into New England and Canada due to rising sea temperatures, and have begun feeding on the local lobster. These are the same lobster populations that were historically the main source of food for Atlantic cod. However, once the Atlantic cod fishery collapsed a couple of decades ago, lobster numbers skyrocketed. Like any good capitalist countries, Canada and the United States took advantage of this crustacean surplus and turned lobster into a huge commercial fishery which last year made approximately $480 million. However, over the past 20 years lobsters in the North Atlantic didn’t face much natural predation. Now that the black sea bass have migrated north and have begun to exploit this enormous source of food, the industry is likely to take a hit.

As lobster stocks decrease, the cost of fishing them will go up (since it will require more fuel, labor, and effort to catch the same amount of individuals). Additionally, because we cannot fully control the black sea bass predating on the lobster, the industry will likely become more regulated to compensate for lower stocks. The combination of greater harvesting costs and more regulation will drive the price of lobster down, since less people will be willing to pay these costs. This is going to ultimately drive the entire fishery into decline, as revenues will decrease while costs increase.

It’s unlikely that the increase in the black sea bass fishery (a growing industry that made about $8.3 million in 2013) will be able to offset the decrease in the lobster industry. And while more mobile species could and typically do shift their range to escape new predators, lobsters do not have their luxury. These benthic invertebrates stay mostly in the same area throughout their adult life. Though they do possess a planktonic larval phase, and drift along in the water column throughout this period, studies have shown that lobster larvae experience more natal retention than other planktonic larvae. This means that even the larvae are not that likely to settle in a new, less threatened habitat, at least in the next few years.

I found this article worthy of a podcast because it just goes to show that man-made climate change can have detrimental impacts reaching far beyond melting sea ice. Changes to the marine environment can ultimately affect our economies and economic policies. However, there are things that you can do to help prevent global climate change.

Enjoy the Podcast!

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