In the December 4 paper published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, these scientists sound an alarm that expanding ocean dead zones are shrinking the habitat for high value fish such as marlins in the tropical northeast Atlantic Ocean. As dead zones expand, marlins, other billfish and tunas move into surface waters where they are more vulnerable to fishing. Dead zones are areas in the ocean where oxygen levels are so low that creatures cannot survive over the long term.
"By combining the disciplines of oceanography and fishery biology, we are getting a much clearer picture of how climate driven dead zones are shrinking the habitat for some of the world's most valuable fish to commercial and recreational fishermen," Prince said. "With a clearer picture, we will be able to make better management decisions for the long-term health of these species and their ecosystems."
...Blue marlins and many other billfish are high energy fish that need large amounts of dissolved oxygen. By comparing the movement of the blue marlins and the location of low-oxygen areas, the scientists show that blue marlins venture deeper when dissolved oxygen levels are higher and remain in shallower surface waters when low dissolved oxygen areas encroach on their habitat from below.
"The shrinking of habitat due to expanding dead zones needs to be taken into account in scientific stock assessments and management decisions for tropical pelagic billfish and tuna," said Prince. "Without taking it into account, stock assessments could be providing false signals that stocks are healthy, when in fact they are not, thus allowing overfishing that further depletes these fish stocks and threatens the sustainability of our fisheries."...
Atlantic blue marlin, image from NOAA