Climate change threatens 90 percent of aquatic food supply, new report

The report evaluated 17 different stressors, such as sea level rise, pesticide runoff and algal blooms, that impact the quality and quantity of global marine food supplies.

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Image Credit: Blue Food Assessment

According to a new study, the majority of foods sourced from aquatic environments or “blue foods” are threatened by climate change. The report, which was published in the journal, Nature Sustainability, evaluated 17 different stressors, such as sea level rise, pesticide runoff and algal blooms, that impact the quality and quantity of global marine food supplies.

The report confirmed that more than 90 percent of blue foods, including fished and farmed fish, shellfish, algae and plants in both freshwater and marine environments, are threatened. These foods include more than 540 freshwater species and more than 2,190 marine species, EcoWatch reported.

“We have only scratched the surface in our understanding of how environmental stressors are connected, and how they can both negatively impact the production and safety of the resulting blue foods,” Ling Cao, co-lead author and professor at the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, said. “Understanding the complexity of these stressors, and their cascading impacts, will be essential in developing successful adaptation and mitigation strategies.”

To try and understand the complexity of these stressors, the study identified the most affected countries and found that blue foods in the U.S. are at risk of invasive species, algal blooms, sea level rise and ocean warming, while in China, which is the top blue food producer, is at risk of inland eutrophication and severe weather, especially for freshwater food supplies.

“Although we have made some progress with climate change, our adaptation strategies for blue food systems facing environmental change are still underdeveloped and need urgent attention,” Rebecca Short, co-lead author of the study and researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Center, said.

The report recommends a global diversification of blue food production, “establishing international policies on sustainable blue food production and following the knowledge of Indigenous and local peoples in developing strategies and policies,” EcoWatch reported.

“Environmental stressors do not care about national borders,” Ben Halpern, co-lead author and professor at University of California, Santa Barbara and director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, said. “Stressors get moved by air, water, species, and humans, connecting land to sea and ecosystem to ecosystem.”

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