If humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at their current rate, catch at ocean fisheries may decline 20-50 percent by the end of the decade. (That’s 2-5 percent per decade.) JoAnna Wendel, science journalist and illustrator in Washington, D.C., caught up with Phoebe Woodworth-Jefcoats from NOAA to explain why.
In a warmer environment, fish metabolism rises, which means they need to eat more. But in these warmer waters, there’s less to eat.
In the North Pacific, there’s a huge, natural vortex of wind and warm water swirling clockwise. Because of warm temperatures, nutrient-rich water from below doesn’t get mixed in with surface water, which means zooplankton can’t live there.
If there are fewer zooplankton, that means less food.
The material for this comic was inspired by a presentation by Phoebe Woodworth-Jefcoats at the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans, LA, earlier this year. Woodworth-Jefcoats is a research oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. She studies the open ocean ecosystem in the central North Pacific. Her work focuses on how this ecosystem is impacted by factors such as fishing and climate change.
Written and illustrated by JoAnna Wendel, a science journalist in Washington, D.C., covering Earth and space science for eos.org, the news magazine of the American Geophysical Union. She also likes to dabble in science comics covering all topics of science. You can follow her on Twitter at @JoAnnaScience and check out some of her Earth and space science comics at the AGU’s Plainspoken Scientist blog. Just search “Drawn to Geoscience.”