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Climate change displaces fish

GLOBAL warming will push fish stocks more than 200 kilometers toward the poles by mid-century in a dislocation of ocean life, a study of more than 1,000 marine species has projected.

Tropical nations were likely to suffer most as commercial fish stocks swam north or south to escape warming waters, the report said. Alaska, Greenland and Nordic nations would be among those to benefit from more fish.

"We'll see a major redistribution of many species because of climate change," said William Cheung of the University of British Columbia in Canada and the University of East Anglia in England, who was the lead author of the study.

"On average, fish will change their distribution by more than 40km per decade in the next 50 years," he told Reuters of the report in the journal Fish and Fisheries, presented at a meeting in Chicago yesterday.

He said the report, written with scientists in the United States and projecting average shifts of more than 200km over five decades, was the first to model climate impacts for more than 1,000 species such as herring, tuna, sharks and prawns.

Stocks of many species are already under pressure from over-fishing or pollution.

In the North Sea, a northward shift of cod could cut numbers by 20 percent. At the same time, North Sea stocks of the more southerly European plaice might rise by more than 10 percent.

Some cod populations off the east coast of the United States might decline by half by 2050, the report said.

"Countries in the tropics will suffer most from reductions in catches," Cheung said. The UN Climate Panel says emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are stoking climate change such as droughts or rising seas.

Overall, Cheung said the total fish catches from the world's oceans would be little changed by mid-century despite the shifts. "It's more about reshuffling the catch," he said.


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