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6 June 2017

Rising Ocean Temperatures Threaten Sustainability & Nutritional Quality of Seafood

The damage being inflicted upon our planet as a direct result of climate change is undeniable and widely known, but it seems every day another new danger is discovered or highlighted. It’s no different here; as a new study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology has looked at how rising ocean temperatures may affect marine populations commonly consumed by humans, and the result don’t look too promising.

Conducted by Professor Kristen Benkendorff and her team at South Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre, the study basically involved exposing marine snails or whelks to the predicted conditions of future oceans over a period of 35 days.

The experiment gave a clear indication; when water temperatures increased, the nutritional value of whelks declined as a result.

“What we've found is a 50% reduction in the protein weight for weight of the meat of these gastropods,” said Professor Benkendorff.

“That may impact on the value and sustainability of the whelk fisheries in the future.

“What happens I think is that, under these conditions of increased temperature and pH, the snails get stressed, and when anything is stressed it uses a lot of energy. That energy would otherwise be allocated towards their growth and reproduction.

“So they're using up all their stored energy such as their proteins and their good fatty acids just to cope with the stress that they are under.”

Whelks are widely consumed around the world, and are particularly popular in places such as China, Taiwan, Korea, South Africa, and many parts of Europe. Due to this fact, and the reliance of many human populations upon such seafood stocks for sustenance, understanding how they may be affected by climate change must be considered an important task. More so is figuring out a way to protect their numbers and lessen the impact of a changing climate upon them.

“They are actually the biggest gastropod fishery in the world - bigger than abalone even,” Prof Benkendorff said.

“We need to be very careful about management of fisheries because as we move into the future these species are going to be stressed with less energy resources for their own reproduction and growth. Yet for us to satisfy our protein needs we're going to need more.

“I think we do need to be thinking about how we can sustainably manage our populations of marine species but also looking at aquaculture options where we can control the conditions a little bit more.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.