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Caribbean Sardine Collapse Linked to Climate Change

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The collapse of sardine fisheries in the southern Caribbean Sea during the past decade may have been driven by global climate change, according to a study

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JL A (282)
Sunday November 11, 2012, 7:23 am

Caribbean sardine collapse linked to climate change

Marielba Núñez

5 November 2012 | EN | ES

Climate change impacts are depleting plankton — a vital nutrition source for sardines


[CARACAS] The collapse of sardine fisheries in the southern Caribbean Sea during the past decade may have been driven by global climate change, according to a study.

Researchers from the United States and Venezuela linked ecological measurements in the southern Caribbean Sea with global climate change indicators. These indices were revealed to correlate to changes in regional wind and seawater circulation patterns, which may have dire socioeconomic consequences for Caribbean countries — such as the collapse of valuable sardine fisheries.

The sardine, Sardinella aurita, feeds on plankton but since 2005, plankton levels in the Caribbean have reduced significantly, which, coupled with overfishing, may have contributed to the collapse of these fisheries — which plummeted by as much as 87 per cent, the study says.

The research team said that the decreasing levels of plankton production are the result of a reduction in ocean upwelling, whereby nutrients crucial for plankton production are brought from the sea's floor to the surface. The drop in upwelling has, in turn, been driven by changes in wind patterns and wind strength, themselves driven by global climate change.

The conclusions are based on monthly measurements taken over a period of 14 years in the Cariaco Basin, off the northern coast of Venezuela. They were published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS), last month (15 October).

Researchers measured parameters such as temperature, salinity and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the seawater, said Yrene Astor, a researcher from La Salle Foundation of Natural Sciences, and a co-author of the study.

"The measurements in Cariaco are performed regularly, at monthly intervals, to see the trend over time for each parameter," Astor told SciDev.Net. "This revealed that water temperature has increased by 1.1 degree Celsius [since 1996] — a very slight increase, slow but steady."

The temperature increase contributes to the stratification of the sea, further limiting the upwelling and thus reducing plankton production.

But researchers are still unsure about whether the changes are driven by man-made climate change or natural climate variation, and, according to Astor, the project would need further measurements to determine whether or not the ecological shifts are man-made.

Funding for the Cariaco project has been guaranteed from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Innovation of Venezuela up to 2014, Astor said.

Research in the Cariaco Basin is "the basis for understanding the low production of fisheries off the Venezuelan coast", César Lodeiros, a researcher at the Oceanographic Institute of Venezuela, told SciDev.Net.

The Venezuelan sardine catch has dropped from about 200 thousand tonnes in 2004 in to less than 40 thousand tonnes today, Lodeiros explained. "The same goes for other areas, because the abundance of plankton, generated by coastal upwelling, is the basis for the high production of fish and marine organisms on the Venezuelan coast, particularly in the East and West."

Lodeiros added that the Cariaco Basin investigation is also important because it reveals long-term trends in climate change impacts.

JL A (282)
Sunday November 11, 2012, 9:51 am
Thanks for highlighting the time bomb revealed in this article, Kit--just one of thousands upon thousands around the world. You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.

Roger G (154)
Sunday November 11, 2012, 11:58 am
noted, thanks !

JL A (282)
Sunday November 11, 2012, 12:58 pm
You are welcome Roger.

JL A (282)
Sunday November 11, 2012, 11:05 pm
You are welcome Jules.

Pogle S (88)
Sunday November 11, 2012, 11:59 pm
Global warming is causing climate change all over the world. It appears that nowhere is exempt and that it's not possible to reverse it. All we can do is go with the flow and adapt to it!

reft h (66)
Monday November 12, 2012, 12:15 am
I didn't know about the sardine collapse. This is sad. Too bad the fish don't have time to adapt to climate change the way humans can. Thanks for the article

Giana Peranio-paz (398)
Monday November 12, 2012, 12:47 am
Thanks for the information. Just another fact the ones who do not accept globla warming have to accept!!

Andrew Butt (84)
Monday November 12, 2012, 1:17 am
noted, thanks

Gloria p (304)
Monday November 12, 2012, 4:40 am
I love sardines. It's bad news.

Bill K (4)
Monday November 12, 2012, 4:43 am
I love sardines, and all fish, too. That's why I don't eat them. Eating them causes them to be just as dead as if they had succumbed to climate change.

JL A (282)
Monday November 12, 2012, 8:11 am
You cannot currently send a star to Giana because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Gloria because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Bill because you have done so within the last week.

Winn A (179)
Monday November 12, 2012, 11:43 am

Christeen Anderson (376)
Monday November 12, 2012, 12:33 pm
Noted with sadness.

louise Woychesko (1)
Monday November 12, 2012, 1:24 pm

Mary Donnelly (47)
Monday November 12, 2012, 2:42 pm
Thanks for great post and comments.

Marie Therese Hanulak (30)
Monday November 12, 2012, 3:42 pm
What a shame!

greenplanet e (155)
Monday November 12, 2012, 6:46 pm
For the sake of the oceans (and planet) we should cut greenhouse gas emissions, and also halt overfishing, so the oceans have a chance to recover.

Yvonne F (181)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 11:14 am
We will see more of this in the future, unfortunately! Thanks JL

JL A (282)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 11:19 am
I fear you are right Yvonne. You cannot currently send a star to Yvonne because you have done so within the last week.

Talya H (10)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 5:20 pm
Our own fault...

Sergio P (65)
Thursday November 15, 2012, 12:49 pm
Thanks for posting, not surprised.....
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