Shrinking Salmon in Alaska Will Hit the Global Fish Trade



Kim Chipman | Bloomberg

Climate change and other threats to one of the world’s last bastions of wild salmon are already roiling the food supply chain and could alter U.S. export sales of the widely sought-after fish.

About 40% of the world’s wild salmon comes from Alaska, where fishermen are seeing fish size shrink. Scientists are still delving into the precise causes — it’s complicated because there are five different species of Pacific salmon in North America — but the consensus is that climate change is a main culprit.

The size conundrum could end up disrupting global trade flows. American exporters may soon find they’re selling more to Japan, which typically favors smaller fish. Meanwhile, European markets, especially those with heavy demand for smoked salmon, prefer bigger products, according to Elizabeth Herendeen, marketplace manager at Alaska-based Salmon State, which advocates for the protection of Pacific salmon.

It’s the latest example of how climate change is changing how food is produced and where it gets shipped. Rapidly warming temperatures are forcing some lobster boats to move further offshore, and hotter Midwest summers are a threat to yields. Agriculture futures have surged recently as bad weather makes it harder to grow crops at a time when food inflation is already on the rise.

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