Image of the Day: Fish Sticks! A One-Two Climate Punch

Credit: Alaska Fisheries Science Center

For Alaska pollock, the white fish primarily used in fish-sticks and one of the most economically valuable fisheries in the world, climate change is a one-two punch, reducing the abundance of their preferred food while increasing the population size of their predators. 

Found most commonly in the Bering Sea, the pollock (specifically the juveniles) spend their summers fattening up on zooplankton in preparation for winter. But scientists have found that large zooplankton don't fair as well in warmer conditions when sea ice extent is reduced, while contrastingly, the arrowtooth flounder — a natural predator of juvenile Alaska pollock — do.

The effect on the pollock stock between 2001 and 2005 when temperatures in the region were warmer than average was notable, reports NOAA, causing the Fisheries Service to lower the Bering Sea quota for 2006 through 2010 by 0.7 million tons. And although subsequent temperatures did cool off and the quota was raised back almost to its previous level, climate projections show a Bering Sea climate similar to that of 2001 to 2005 could return in the coming decades.