According to a new study by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, salmon are getting smaller as a result of climate change. This will affect people who rely on salmon as food, commercial fishing, and the ecosystem’s health.
The study examined four species of salmon including chinook, chum, coho, and sockeye. Each of these species is now smaller when compared to their own species more than a decade ago.
Here is how each species decreased since 2010:
Chinook: Averaged an 8.0% decline in body length.
Coho: Decreased by 3.3% in body size.
Chum: Decreased by 2.4% in body size.
Sockeye: Decreased by 2.1% in body size.
What Is Making Salmon Smaller?
The report found that the biggest factor at play was the amount of time they are spending in the Pacific ocean. However, the exact reasoning still remains a mystery to researchers, but they did come up with some potential factors:
- The temperature of the water
- Competition with other salmon (population size)
- Sea ice coverage
Regardless of the exact reasoning, it appears to now be much riskier for salmon to survive in the Pacific Ocean. This is a huge problem because salmon go out to the ocean to grow.
The amount of energy and food they can consume is much larger in the ocean than in their freshwater habitat. As a result, salmon grow much larger in a short amount of time when they enter the sea.
However, they are simply not spending enough time to grow normally.
Fishing Is Crucial For Alaska
Fishing plays a major role in Alaska’s economy as it accounts for over $5 billion dollars annually. Salmon play an important role in this economy, and a size reduction will cripple hatcheries in the state.
As climate conditions continue to worsen around the world, the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent. It will not only affect the health of ecosystems, but also the agricultural and fishing industries.