Marine science: The tiniest catch : Nature News
Marine scientists are prowling the Bering Sea to learn how climate affects minute sea creatures and the lucrative fishery that depends on them.
For the past three years, Pinchuk has been studying this region as part of the six-year, US$52-million Bering Sea Project, a collaborative effort between the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the North Pacific Research Board. The project has funded more than 100 principal investigators, including oceanographers, biologists, geochemists, social scientists, economists and ecosystem modellers, as well as their technicians and students.
At its heart, the Bering Sea Project is an attempt to understand how climate change may affect the region's fisheries, by studying the ecosystem from top to bottom. Researchers hope this strategy will help fishery managers to protect the pollock and other species as the Bering Sea warms.
It will take some time for Pinchuk to sort his specimens. But he has already observed a distinct difference between the dominant zooplankton species during the past three years — the coldest on record — and the three previous decades, which culminated in five of the warmest years on record, from 2001 to 2005.
...(Unusually chilly water during the past few cold years has forced the young pollock into relatively warmer regions, where they can more easily fall prey to older pollock.)
...The Bering Sea pollock fishery is regarded as one of the best-managed fisheries in the world, and the Marine Stewardship Council certified it as sustainable in 2005. But shortly after that, pollock stocks dropped dramatically, perhaps because of the cold snap. Last year, researchers who conducted surveys in the area were shocked to find relatively few three-year-old fish.
That caused Greenpeace to move pollock to its 'red list' of seafood to avoid. Some researchers worried that the population was heading for a crash.