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Climate Change Is Driving Global Conflicts Over Dwindling Fish Supplies

As oceans heat up, fish are relocating, and conditions are ripe for war over access.

Climate Change Is Driving Global Conflicts Over Dwindling Fish Supplies
PRIMORYE TERRITORY, RUSSIA - MAY 29, 2018: Unloading fish from the hold of the Uraganny seiner (MRS-450) of the Dobroflot Fishing Company at a shore-based fish factory in the village of Yuzhno-Morskoye. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images)

Fish and other seafood species are associated with various regions or nations. Icelandic cod, Alaskan salmon, Louisiana crawfish, Nile tilapia, Auckland oysters—specific species have unique habitat requirements. Water quality, temperatures and conditions all affect the types of fish that can thrive in an area. However, all around the world, conditions are changing. As the world’s oceans warm, historic fisheries are relocating. Countries that counted on finding adequate stocks of a specific species in their patch of the ocean are suddenly finding their fisheries are collapsing. As fish populations relocate, fishing operations are following them—sometimes into territories controlled by other nations.

One example: Within the last 10 years, Atlantic mackerel, one of the UK’s chief exports, relocated to cooler waters near Iceland. The resulting unsustainable fishing, trade embargoes, and boat blockades created tensions between the previously friendly countries and helped lead Iceland to drop its bid to join the EU.

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