Fishermen on Front Lines of Climate Change Reveal Impact of Warming Oceans

Washington, D.C. Sept. 10, 2018 — In a new report from the Center for American Progress, fishermen on the front lines of climate change—from Alaska and California to Maine and Florida—reveal the impact of warming oceans and what it means for America’s fishing communities.

These fishermen understand the negative consequences of climate change on the commercial and recreational fisheries that supported 1.6 million jobs in 2015 and generated more than $200 billion in sales, the report says.

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For the third year in a row, 2016 set a record as the hottest year ever measured by scientists, and 93 percent of the excess heat trapped by human-made carbon pollution has been absorbed by the ocean. Studies show that increasing carbon emissions are likely to reduce global fisheries catch potential by up to 25 percent by 2100.

In Florida, fishermen say that rising water temperatures have caused cobia and king mackerel to move to different areas of the Gulf of Mexico and changed the pattern of sailfish and tarpon migration. Fishing industries in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia are under threat as researchers find marine species shifting an average of 50 miles north. And lobster that were once plentiful in southern New England have largely disappeared from those rapidly warming waters over the past 10 years.

Fishing communities have been forced to seek emergency disaster relief in the Pacific, change their business practices in New England, and target new species up and down the Atlantic seaboard. The main solution to the worsening impacts of climate change on American fisheries is an aggressive cap on carbon emissions and a drawdown of carbon pollution, the report says.

CAP collected observations and interviews from more than a dozen fisherman around the country who spoke about the hardships they’ve faced due to warming waters. Many of these fishermen quoted in the report are available for further interviews with reporters about their experiences.

Read the report: “Warming Seas, Falling Fortunes: Stories of Fishermen on the Front Lines of Climate Change” by Avery Siciliano, Alexandra Carter, Shiva Polefka, and Michael Conathan.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”