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Jumbo flying squid landing on menus as climate shifts seafood supply: UBC study

Researchers say warming sea temperatures are impacting what we eat
UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries director William Cheung is the senior author of a new study which draws connections between warming ocean temperatures and changing seafood menu offerings in Vancouver. (Courtesy UBC)

The climate is changing, and a new study suggests seafood menus may be shifting with it.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed 362 Vancouver restaurant menus from four time periods between 1880 and 2021, and found warming ocean temperatures have likely impacted local seafood offerings.

The team released their findings Thursday (April 21) with a prediction for seafood lovers: jumbo flying squid (a.k.a. Humboldt squid) and sardines may soon take sockeye salmon’s place.

The two up-and-coming creatures are warm water lovers, and report senior author William Cheung said as the ocean heats they are increasingly able to expand their territories.

“Humboldt squid is not something that we see in restaurant menus at all before the 1990s but we see it is much more common now, and sardine, which has historically disappeared in seafood menu, may return in the future,” Cheung, the director of the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, said in a news release.

Sockeye salmon, on the other hand, have been struggling in B.C. Unless that changes, Cheung said he expects to see restaurants increasingly drop the much-loved fish from their menus.

READ ALSO: UN warns Earth ‘firmly on track toward an unlivable world’

His team conducted their research by determining the preferred water temperature of local sea life listed on Vancouver menus from each time period, and comparing it to actual ocean temperatures at the time. As water temperatures increased, so did the level of warm water dwellers on menus.

“It’s likely that they were more available to catch for sale…,” Cheung said.

The team recognized that other factors like fishing activity, aquaculture and imported supply could play a part in menu offerings too, but said they did their best to account for that in their analysis.

Their research shows that less conventional data sources can be useful in mapping the impacts of climate change going forward.

Co-author John-Paul Ng said he hopes their approach helps to connect people’s every day activities to what is going on in the world.

READ ALSO: In hot water? Study says warming may reduce sea life by 17%


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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media.
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