Policymakers will need to step up to the challenges caused by significant shifts in fish species distributions caused by climate change.

Tropical countries stand to lose the most fish species due to climate change, with few if any stocks replacing them, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability. This could pose a serious governance challenge that warrants careful policy-making, the researchers say.

As sea temperatures rise, fish species migrate towards cooler waters to maintain their preferred thermal environments.

Jorge GarcĂ­a Molinos of Hokkaido University and colleagues in Japan and the USA developed a computer model to project how the ranges of 779 commercial fish species will expand or contract under a moderate and more severe greenhouse gas emissions scenario between 2015 and 2100, compared to their 2012 distribution.

The model showed that, under a moderate emissions scenario, tropical countries could lose 15% of their fish species by the year 2100. If a more high-end emissions scenario were to occur, they could lose more than 40% of their 2012 species.

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