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Climate change threatens vital micronutrients from fisheries

In a new study from Lancaster University, experts report that climate change threatens food security for millions of people in countries that depend the most on the fishing industry. The study revealed that the increasing strain of climate change and overfishing will impact the availability of micronutrients that come from our oceans.

The researchers analyzed the future distribution and abundance of more than 800 fish species in 157 countries. These fish are a critical source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, iron, zinc, and calcium. 

When it comes to the availability of these essential micronutrients from marine fish catches, the experts found that climate change poses the biggest threat.

The study reveals that climate change threatens the supply of vital micronutrients from fisheries in 40 percent of countries. The micronutrient supplies were found to be less vulnerable to overfishing.

Countries with micronutrient sources that are most at risk are tropical nations, including Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia. The Sub-Saharan African countries of Mozambique and Sierra Leone were also found to be particularly at risk.

“As climate change and overfishing are significant and growing pressures on global fish stocks, it is essential for the dietary requirements of millions of people to know the extent that these pressures will have on the availability of micronutrients in our seas in the future,” said study lead author Dr. Eva Maire.

“We have shown that climate change is the most pervasive threat to the supply of vital micronutrients for many countries around the world, and in particular in the tropics.”

According to the researchers, some countries may be able to adapt their fisheries to switch from vulnerable species and instead target alternative micronutrient-rich species that are also resilient to both climate change and overfishing.

“As well as highlighting the growing threat of climate change to the food security of millions of people, our study also offers hope for the future,” said study co-author Professor William Cheung from the University of British Columbia.

“Armed with nutritional information about different fish species, many countries have the capacity to adapt their fisheries policies to target different more resilient fish species. By doing this then these nations can ensure a more reliable supply of micronutrients for their people.”

The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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