Expect to see more squid and less sockeye salmon on ‘climate change’ menus

Vancouver seafood lovers may see more Humboldt squid but less sockeye salmon on restaurant menus in the near future due to climate change.

Dr. William Cheung

That’s according to a new study by UBC researchers who looked at 362 Vancouver restaurant menus over four time periods, spanning from 1880 to 2021. They identified locally caught species on those menus and determined the temperature of the menu. preferred water of each species based on previous studies. The researchers then took an average preferred temperature for all identified species for each of the four time periods, and found that the highest preferred temperature occurred in the present day at nearly 14 degrees Celsius, three degrees warmer than in 1880, and almost five degrees higher than the lowest temperature calculated in 1962.

These temperatures were tied to contemporary sea surface temperatures, which have fallen from around 10 degrees Celsius in 1980 to 10.7 degrees in 2021.

“We set out to find out if warming waters due to climate change are already affecting what seafood restaurants serve on their menus,” said lead author Dr. William Cheung, professor and director of the Institute. of Oceans and Fisheries from UBC. “Although not a case of cause and effect, our results indicate that the seas around Vancouver were warming during the periods studied, so that fish species that prefer warmer waters dominated there. . It is likely that they were more available to be caught for sale, and therefore local seafood restaurants offered more of these types of fish.

Calamari and sardines

Two species in particular stood out: the Humboldt squid, which extends its territory further north as water temperatures rise, and the sardine, whose catches have fallen since the 1940s but which, according to studies recent, will become more abundant with warmer waters in the future. “Humboldt squid is not something we see on restaurant menus before the 1990s, but we see it much more common now, and sardine, which has historically disappeared from the seafood menu in sea, could come back in the future,” says Dr Cheung. Vancouver diners could expect to see both species feature more frequently on seafood menus in the near future, he added. “We know that sockeye salmon is not doing well in British Columbia. This means that local sockeye salmon may be less available in the near future, and it is likely that local restaurants will choose other species of salmon or d ‘other species of fish.’

The biggest shifts in species found on menus occurred from 1981 to 1996, compared to 2019 to 2021, where warmer-water favorite species tended to occur more frequently in recent times. “That’s when a lot of the bigger temperature changes happened, and it’s also when some of those changes really start to have bigger and more obvious effects on fish stocks.” , said Dr. Cheung. The extreme marine heatwave known as the ‘Blob’ and abnormally warm weather in recent decades, leading to changes in the distribution and abundance of exploited species, may be behind the accelerated rate at which the menus of seafood is transforming, he said.

“Climate change is already affecting everyone, not just the fishermen who catch the fish, but the people who go to restaurants and eat the fish,” he said. “We can expect to see less stable seafood availability if we consume local catches. Expect that we may not be able to get all the same seafood all year round, or all the time.

Other factors unrelated to climate affect the availability of species that restaurants must serve, such as fishing activity, aquaculture, and imported supply. Researchers have tried to account for these uncertainties in a variety of ways, and the research points to a trend related to ocean temperature changes, Dr Cheung says. “Given other evidence of how fish and fisheries are responding to climate change, the trend we detected is likely also related to changing oceans.”

Menus as data sources

The study highlights the usefulness of alternative data sources, said co-author John-Paul Ng, an undergraduate student and researcher at UBC. Menus are also usually free and readily available online, compared to some fishing data. “People go to restaurants every day. I think drawing the line between science and something that is very relevant to people in the real world is something that the study accomplishes,” he said.

Future studies could use other unorthodox materials, such as cookbooks and even paintings by local artists who focus their work on the ocean, to better understand the changing distribution of marine life, he said. he adds.

The study “Signature of climate-induced changes in seafood species served in restaurants” was published in the journal Environmental biology of fish.

B-roll and photos available for the media: https://bit.ly/MenusBroll

Language(s) of the interview: English (Cheung, Ng) and Cantonese (Cheung)

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