News / Science & Technology

    Studies: How Whales, Fish Might Adapt To Warming Ocean

    Gray whales might be adapting while fish populations are shifting

    A charter fishing boat heads to sea from Newport, Oregon.
    A charter fishing boat heads to sea from Newport, Oregon.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Tom Banse

    Two new science studies provide a glimpse of how some important Pacific Ocean sea creatures could adapt to a changing climate.

    One study describes how gray whales successfully adapted to previous cycles of global warming and cooling. The second predicts a fish shift on the west coast of North America. The study suggests that some West Coast fishermen will need to pursue different prey if the Pacific Ocean warms as projected over the next 50 years.  

    Nick Pyenson is a paleobiologist who curates the marine fossil collection at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. The famous collection includes lots of creatures driven to extinction by environmental changes. It also includes some of the long fossil record for gray whales, a species that still lives in the Pacific Ocean today.

    "Grey whales fit into this question about ongoing climate change," says Pyenson. He and his former doctoral advisor from UC Berkeley wondered how gray whales survived through previous cycles of global warming and cooling.

    "In the past two million years, the Northern Hemisphere has undergone dramatic changes with ice sheets going all the way down to Chicago and Seattle," says Pyenson. "In doing so, that sucks up a lot of the water that would be otherwise be put in the ocean and drops sea level dramatically."

    According to Pyenson, historic sea level changes periodically expanded and closed off vast feeding grounds. He theorizes gray whales hung on through bad times by either migrating less, switching food sources or both. Even today, there are small numbers of gray whales that stay in one place and eat fish and krill, while most of their species migrate long distances and bottom feed.

    "What we think is telling is that those who don't migrate are telling us about the range in behavior and what these animals can do ecologically."

    Pyenson says that adaptability bodes well for how the whales may respond to future climate changes. He adds one caveat though, saying the current cycle of human-induced global warming is developing faster and more powerfully than the historic episodes he examined.

    Shannon Hunter of Newport holds an opah caught last summer on the charter vessel "Misty." Opah is normally found in Hawaiian waters.
    Shannon Hunter of Newport holds an opah caught last summer on the charter vessel "Misty." Opah is normally found in Hawaiian waters.

    Fish shift

    In a separate study, a group of Canadian and American researchers examined how a warming ocean could affect fish common along the West Coast of North America.

    The science team studied 28 fish species whose biology and distribution is well understood.  Oceanographer Ric Brodeur of the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon, says the list includes salmon, smelt, sharks, pollock and sardines. Brodeur says the researchers simulated what could happen if the North Pacific heats up due to global warming.

    "Because these fish are so mobile, they can move up and down the coast or inshore or offshore to find the preferred temperature that they want."

    The federal science agency, NOAA, predicts the ocean's surface waters off Oregon and Washington will warm about two degrees Celsius over the next 50 years. Brodeur says that's enough to cause significant moves.  A forthcoming research paper models how much.  If you combine the home ranges of all the fish that the team studied, there's an average shift northward of roughly 40 kilometers per decade. Over time, Brodeur predicts fishermen and seafood consumers will notice.

    "A lot of the species that we consider very important - like hake - things that are commercially fished here might be gone and replaced by other species that may or may not be commercially important."

    Across Yaquina Bay from Brodeur's office, charter fishing boats unload sun-burned anglers. Veteran captain Robert Waddell says he's already seen some evidence of warm water species shifting northward.

    “I've noticed in the last 12-13 years, we've been starting to see some marlin off and on out there and we've hooked them a few times," says Waddell.

    Blue fin tuna is another possible newcomer that could fill the vacancy if, say, salmon left for cooler waters off Canada.  Waddell is optimistic the local fishing fleet can adapt.

    "People will make adjustments," he says. "Fifty years from now, we might be the marlin capital of the world. You never know."

    You May Like

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora