Climate crisis threatens access to fish nutrients, study finds | Fish


The climate crisis and, to a lesser extent, overfishing could threaten the world’s supply of essential vitamins and minerals from fish, research suggests.

Worldwide, 1 billion people depend on fish and seafood as their main source of protein. Fish is also an essential source of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals such as omega 3, calcium and iron – essential for the health of the body. A deficiency in these can lead to a range of dangerous health conditions as well as reduced energy levels and mental clarity.

Overfishing and the climate crisis are two of the most significant threats to marine life, affecting the size, distribution and abundance of species around the world. To determine how these increasing pressures are influencing the nutritional contribution of global fisheries, an international team of researchers led by Lancaster University combined data on the micronutrient content of species with a vulnerability index that indicates how sensitive species are to change. climate and overfishing. They apply these measures to more than 800 species of fish in 157 countries.

“When we look at the country level, climate change is the most widespread threat to the supply of vital micronutrients, and particularly in the tropics,” said Dr Eva Maire, Senior Research Associate at the University of Lancaster and lead author of the study. Overall, the results showed that in just over 40% of the countries studied, fisheries are highly vulnerable to climate change, threatening the food security of millions of people.

the studypublished in Current Biology, looked at five key micronutrients: calcium, iron, zinc, selenium and vitamin A. Contrary to the obvious impact of the climate crisis, they found that the world’s fisheries have relatively weak to overfishing pressure.

“One of the main reasons why climate change is such a threat comes down to the fish species that these countries are targeting for catches,” Maire explained. There are differences in the nutrient richness of different fish species, and vulnerability to climate change and overfishing varies widely at the species level. The study revealed that some species are nutrient-dense and not very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and overfishing, making them potential targets in fisheries management.

Climate has a huge impact and changes on fisheries, but these are not currently managed in a way that pays attention to available nutrients, explained Professor Christina Hicks, environmental social scientist at the Lancaster University, which also participated in the research.

“If we link understanding [of nutritional needs in coastal populations] what we know about what is available in the water and how that is likely to change, we can then pay more attention to locally managed fisheries, through a nutrition-sensitive lens and climate-sensitive,” she said.

Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, a marine biologist from the University of Plymouth who was not involved in the study, said one of the problems was the way international industrial fishing fleets plunder rich tropical fisheries. nutrients that could otherwise benefit local people.

“Really the local people should get nutritional benefits from it,” he said, but “they don’t have the big vessels to catch that kind of fish – they fish more artisanally or in a more which is have small boats”.

This was evident in the study, which showed a huge abundance of micronutrients being caught off the coastal waters of countries where diets are inadequate in these same nutrients. “We’ve identified this huge gap, or inequality between who’s catching the fish and who needs it, and it’s because you have foreign fishing vessels – you have a demand for foreign income through trade,” Hicks said.

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