Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Warmer oceans: 'We need to start planning for this now'

A report recommends sweeping changes to the recreational fishing sector.
New Zealand's fishing industry could hit a snag if it doesn't plan for warmer oceans significantly affecting marine life, say Niwa scientists.

As the ocean gets warmer it could affect phytoplankton - a key part of the oceans, seas and freshwater basin ecosystems - and could see a reduction in food supply for fish.

"This has already happened in the water just off Tasmania and the south-east corner of Australia, which is warming rapidly as the East Australian current pushes warmer water further south causing huge changes to the ecosystem," said Niwa marine biogeochemist​ Professor Cliff Law.

Tasmania's coastal ecosystems were changing with an increase in subtropical species, which can impact the economy, he said.

"The average warming around New Zealand is 2.5 degrees [Celsius] by the end of this century, which will affect how the ocean mixes and the nutrients available for plankton growth, with knock-on effects on the foodweb and fisheries.

"People tend to think of climate change from a terrestrial angle but obviously, as the ocean is a big part of the globe, there will be significant changes. As it's also a significant part of New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone we need to start planning for this now."

Near-record sea surface temperatures described as "off the charts" were reported on Monday.
La Nina pattern and higher than normal atmospheric pressure are warming sea surface temperatures by more than 6 degrees Celsius in some areas, compared to the average for this time of year.


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