British Columbia

B.C. salmon prices set to skyrocket with climate change, according to new study

A new report predicts a sharp decline in B.C. fish numbers due to climate change. The result means the costs of iconic west coast species will increase significantly by 2050.

Report predicts a sharp decline in B.C. fish numbers due to climate change

A new report says climate change will lead to a decline in salmon stock and drive up the price of fish significantly in the coming decades. (Getty Images)

B.C.'s bounty of salmon might be feeling the effects of an increasingly hotter climate. A new study released by Vancity says there will be a significant decline in the province's salmon stock within the next five decades due to climate change and the drop in fish numbers would result in soaring prices.

The report Out of Stock predicts that by 2050 there could be a 21 per cent decline in sockeye, a 10 per cent decline in chum, and a 15 per cent decline in sablefish.

"This is a really tangible way for people to understand the impact of climate change," says Rashid Sumaila, one of the study's authors who has been working with the UBC's fisheries research unit for over 20 years.

According to the study, "the prices of iconic West Coast species such as sockeye salmon, sablefish and chum are projected to increase by up to $2,925, $1,703 and $1,397 per tonne under the climate change scenario."

The study says climate change will add pressure to already skyrocketing prices, contributing to an increase of more than 70 per cent in the price per pound. 

It singles out West Coast sockeye salmon as the fish to experience the greatest decrease in numbers and warns that without immediate action, there will be an irreversible effect on a number of B.C.'s staple ecology of fish.

'A double whammy'

Sumaila says rising water temperatures are to blame for the declining salmon stock. 

"What we found is it can be quite significant. Like everything, there is a temperature range you can be comfortable in."

Rashid Sumaila, the director of the Fisheries Research Unit at UBC, co-authored the report Out of Stock. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

He says that as the water continues to heat up, fish will naturally move north to find cooler temperatures, but are at risk to swim into fatally acidic water levels.

"As the ocean absorbs the carbon dioxide, the chemistry and physics of the ocean changes. One of the key things we're seeing is ocean acidification.

"The arctic region of the world has been identified by scientists as the hot spot for ocean acidification. So here we have the problem, temperatures are increasing so fish are moving towards the Arctic, and the Arctic waters are becoming more acidic. It's a double whammy."

Action urgently needed

Sumaila is urging all levels of government in Canada to take action. He says while projections are set for 2050, the move to reduce carbon dioxide emissions has to start now.

He also says the public is equally responsible for taking the initiative for change.

"Make sure your [carbon] footprint is as minimal as you can. Get to your representatives, let them know this is serious."

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: How climate change is hurting B.C.'s seafood supply.

Read the full report.


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