Impacts of Climate Change on the Southern Ocean

Katja.Mintenbeck [ at ]


Exploitation of Southern Ocean marine resources began more than 200 years ago with the massive hunt for seals and whales. In the 1960s/70s, fisheries for finfish and krill entered Southern Ocean waters. Within a few years many fish populations were heavily overfished and dramatically depleted, and some of these stocks still did not recover. Today, fish stocks and fisheries activities are managed and monitored by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which was established in 1982 to ensure sustainable exploitation and protection of the delicate marine ecosystem. Current target species include Mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari), Patagonian as well as Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides and D. mawsoni) and Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Most of these species are vulnerable to overfishing due to slow growth, late age at maturity, and rather low fecundity. This vulnerability might increase, as Southern Ocean living communities are currently also faced with alterations of their environment due to climate change, such as increasing water temperatures and decreasing sea ice. Species, including the ones targetted by fisheries, are well-adapted to their particular environmental conditions and are believed to be highly sensitive to changes because of their cold-adapted physiology, their life history traits, and their direct or indirect dependence on sea ice. The species will be exposed to several stressors at the same time, and fishing pressure, direct abiotic forcing and changes mediated via the food web might act synergistically and result in significant population declines. In particular the strongly sea ice-dependent Antarctic krill, a key species in the food web, might be adversely affected. Fish species seems to have low tolerance towards higher water temperatures and may thus, in the long run, be replaced by lower latitude species.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Peer revision
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1002/9781119154051.ch20

Cite as
Mintenbeck, K. (2017): Impacts of Climate Change on the Southern Ocean / B. Phillips and M. Pérez-Ramírez (editors) , In: Climate Change Impacts on Fisheries and Aquaculture: A Global Analysis, Climate Change Impacts on Fisheries and Aquaculture: A Global Analysis, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN: 978-1-119-15404-4 . doi: 10.1002/9781119154051.ch20



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