As the oceans warm, the seafood we eat will have to change

Americans eat only a small number of sea creatures of seafood—namely salmon, shrimp and tilapia. But the world’s warming oceans are shifting undersea ecosystems in a way that will force us to expand our minds and palates, reports Ben Goldfarb in FERN’s latest story, published with EatingWell.

“Like an overzealous blackjack dealer, climate change is heating our oceans and reshuffling its inhabitants around the world,” writes Goldfarb. “The result, in some cases, is maritime chaos. A rancorous trade dispute, dubbed the Mackerel Wars, erupted in 2009 after the oily fish abandoned British territory in favor of waters around Iceland, which, tempted by the new bounty, promptly declared it would not adhere to European Union fishing quotas. In 2015, around 500,000 sockeye salmon perished in the Columbia River, the waterway that divides Washington and Oregon, killed by a combination of heat stress and disease—even as salmon runs are increasing in Arctic rivers well north of the fish’s traditional range. Fishing fleets from North Carolina and Virginia, that once plied their local waters, now motor 500 miles up the coast to New Jersey in pursuit of their migrating quarry. Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico is succumbing to “tropicalization.” Numbers of gag grouper, for example—a Caribbean dweller—have exploded 200-fold since the 1970s.

“This rearranging extends from the dock to our plates, as familiar fish face replacement by underutilized strangers,” Goldfarb explains. “Will California restaurateurs swap out Dungeness crab for market squid? Can green crabs stand in for Maine lobster? Will tourists visiting Cape Cod dine on redfish rather than, well, cod? Whether our palates keep pace with climate change isn’t just a culinary question—the future of seafood depends on it.”

You can also read the story on EatingWell