UBC study reveals how global warming has changed restaurant seafood menus

Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant, Ottawa, Canada – BBQ squid skewers August 2011. Credit – John Thompson of Iqaluit. CC SA 2.0.

Seafood lovers may see more Humboldt squid but less sockeye salmon on restaurant menus in the near future due to climate change.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia published a study in Environmental biology of fish which reveals how climate change has affected local restaurant seafood menus.

In the study, according to CTV News Canada, Researchers looked at 362 Vancouver restaurant menus over four time periods, spanning from 1880 to 2021. The study suggests that warming water temperatures are already impacting what seafood restaurants serve.

“We set out to find out if warming waters due to climate change are already affecting what seafood restaurants serve on their menus,” said lead author Dr. William Cheung, professor and director of the Institute. of Oceans and Fisheries from UBC.

Restaurants generally depend on the supply of locally caught species, and so the impacts of changing catches on the food they serve, and therefore on their diners, can be reflected in their menus.

Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) swarm around Tiburon, perhaps attracted by its lights. Source – NOAA/MBARI 2006, public domain

Thus, by analyzing the menus over the four different time periods; (1880-1960, 1961-1980, 1981-1996, and 2019-2021), researchers identified locally caught species on these menus and determined each species’ preferred water temperature based on previous studies, according to Phys.org.

After taking an average preferred temperature for all identified species for each of the four time periods, the research team found that the highest preferred temperature occurs in the present day at nearly 14 degrees Celsius,

This temperature was three degrees higher than that of 1880 and nearly five degrees higher than the lowest temperature calculated in 1962.

“Although not a case of cause and effect, our results indicate that the seas around Vancouver were warming during the periods studied, so that fish species that prefer warmer waters dominated there. . It is likely that they were more available to be caught for sale, and therefore local seafood restaurants were offering more of these types of fish,” Dr Cheung said.

Sockeye salmon. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Two species, in particular, stood out: the Humboldt squid, which extends its territory further north as the water temperature increases, and the sardine.

“Humboldt squid is not something we see on restaurant menus until the 1990s, but we see it much more common now, and sardines, which have historically disappeared from seafood menus , may come back in the future,” Cheung said.

The study also shows that sockeye salmon are not doing so well in British Columbia, meaning the species will be less available in the near future. The most dramatic menu changes were seen from 2019 to 2021.

“That’s when a lot of the bigger temperature changes happened, and it’s also when some of those changes really start to have bigger and more obvious effects on fish stocks.” , Cheung explained.

“Climate change is already affecting everyone, not just anglers who catch fish, but people who go to restaurants and eat fish.”

Teresa H. Sadler