Climate change is causing chaos in the Bering Sea, home to one of the United States’ largest fisheries. That chaos is an example of how rising temperatures can rapidly change ecosystems important to the economy, US federal government scientists said in a report on Tuesday.
Rising temperatures in the Arctic have led to decreases in sea ice, record warm temperatures at the bottom of the Bering Sea and the northward migration of fish species such as Pacific cod, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said in its 2019 Arctic Report Card.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Simon Kinneen, the chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Cod stocks have been hard hit by successive heat waves in the Gulf of Alaska, fishery scientists say.
The report also said the melt of the ice sheet over Greenland this year rivalled that of 2012, the previous year of record ice loss.
Scientists said warming in the Arctic, which functions as a global air conditioner, could lead to rapid changes far away from the region.
“Two years ago nobody was talking about a wholesale shift in the Bering Sea ecosystem,” Thoman said.