New England’s commercial fishing industry lost 16% of its jobs between 1996 and 2017 because of climate change, study reveals
- A marine policy professor studied employment in New England fishing
- She found that employment rates were linked to changes in the climate
- She used the North Atlantic Oscillation, a climate index, to track changes
Climate change is making it harder for commercial fishers in New England to find steady work.
A new study from University of Delaware’s Kimberly Oremus, an associate professor in marine policy, shows that the commercial fishing in industry in New England lost 16 percent of its jobs between 1996 and 2017 as a result of climate variability.
To measure the effect, Oremus tracked employment numbers against yearly shifts in the North Atlantic Oscillation, a climate index that’s based on the difference in air pressure at two different points in the Atlantic.
A University of Delaware professor found that 16 percent of commercial fishing jobs in New England had been lost between 1996 and 2017
Specifically, the NAO measures the pressure in the Azores archipelago around 900 miles west of Portugal, and at a point near Iceland.
A positive NAO occurs when the difference between the two points is the greatest, meaning warmer air from the Azores flows into colder low pressure regions in the North.
A negative NAO occurs when the difference between the two points is smallest meaning less air movement overall.
Oremus observed a one-percent decline in commercial revenue in New England for every one-unit increase in the NAO, according to a report from Eureka Alert.
When these NAO increases were sustained over the course of several years, Oremus found that consecutive employment declines rose as high as thirteen percent, and the cumulative job loss for the 21 year period measured was 16 percent.
Oremus also found that wages shrank by an estimated 35 percent, something linked to smaller catch totals as ocean temperatures changed.
For every one-unit increase in the North Atlantic Oscillation, there was a one percent decline in jobs
‘New England waters are among the fastest-warming in the world,’ Oremus said.
‘Warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures have been shown to impact the productivity of lobsters, sea scallops, groundfish and other fisheries important to the region, especially when they are most vulnerable, from spawning through their first year of life.’
The New England fishing industry employs around 34,000 people, or around 20 percent of the 166,952 commercial fishers in the country.
Oremus called for more research to see how local workers are coping with the new job scarcity.
She said it could drive some into early retirement, or cause a shift into other extraction industries, like oil, gas, or mineral extraction.
Some former fishers may have abandoned New England altogether in pursuit of better job prospects in other parts of the country.
However, based on vessel permit data, Oremus says commercial fishers so far haven’t shifted southward to areas where there’s less seasonal fluctuation in water temperature.
WILL GLOBAL WARMING CAUSE SPECIES TO SHRINK?
A recent study in Canada found that over the last century, the beetles in the region have shrunk.
By looking at eight species of beetle and measuring the animals from past and present they found that some beetles were adapting to a reduced body size.
The data also showed that the larger beetles were shrinking, but the smaller ones were not.
Around 50 million years ago the Earth warmed by three degrees Celsius (5.4°F) and as a result, animal species at the time shrunk by 14 per cent.
Another warming event around 55 million years ago – called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) – warmed the earth by up to eight degrees Celsius (14.4°F).
In this instance, animal species of the time shrunk by up to a third.
Woolly mammoths were a victim of warming climate, shrinking habitat and increased hunting from a growing early-human population which drove them to extinction – along with many large animals
Shrinking in body size is seen from several global warming events.
With the global temperatures set to continue to rise, it is expected the average size of most animals will decrease.
As well as global warming, the world has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of large animals.
So called ‘megafauna’ are large animals that go extinct. With long life-spans and relatively small population numbers, they are less able to adapt to rapid change as smaller animals that reproduce more often.
Often hunted for trophies or for food, large animals like the mastadon, mammoths and the western black rhino, which was declared extinct in 2011, have been hunted to extinction.