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Oceans heat up. So does concern for protecting fish. | The Christian Science Monitor

School of fish underwater.
Image credit: Ariel Shalit/AP/File/The Christian Science Monitor

This excerpt is from a piece in The Christian Science Monitor about ocean health and the importance of collaboration. The article highlights Blue Food Assessment member Dr. Ling Cao and Assessment research on the vulnerability of blue foods to human-induced environmental change. Read the full piece here.

It’s not just Earth’s air that’s been hot lately. The oceans are warming, too. 

Last year was their warmest to date, in records going back to the 1800s. Further records have been smashed this year, with global sea surface temperatures reaching unprecedented levels every month so far since May. And in June, Antarctic sea ice levels reached their lowest since satellite observations began – with a drop of some 2.6 million square kilometers (1 million square miles).

The warming trend has big implications for ocean life, and therefore also for the “blue foods” that make up an important part of human diets. In Alaska, a sharp decline in Bering Sea snow crabs – which experts saw as linked to a prolonged marine heat wave – caused the cancellation of this year’s harvest. Coral, a foundation for major ocean ecosystems worldwide, faces widely noted risks from bleaching. Scientists say warming also contributes to ocean-life challenges such as oxygen depletion, acidification, and fish being pushed to migrate from their usual habitat. 

Researchers are sounding warnings but are also pointing toward possible solutions – some of which appear to be gaining momentum over the past year. Measures to protect marine ecosystems are rising. Efforts to raise awareness are having an effect. More broadly, the world’s efforts to curb overall emissions of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere are seen as key to stabilizing temperatures in oceans as well as on land.

The outlook, to many experts, remains sobering. But in the quest to safeguard ocean life, a common thread may be the importance of collaboration, whether the efforts are local or global in scope.

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