Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Climate change creates a war over fish

Pay attention to the new mackerel war, you'll be seeing more of this type of dispute in the coming years as climate change warms ocean waters.

This dispute threatens to put the stink on foreign relations between the EU and Iceland, with some big consequences such as hindering Iceland's entry into the European Union. All of that over an oily little fish?

The mackerel war is happening because it seems that climate change is warming ocean waters northwest of Europe, driving mackerel towards Iceland. Traditional mackerel fishing countries don't want to share the fish with Iceland. Caught in the middle is the Faroe Islands, with a small share of the traditional catch but a growing share of the fish around their small island home. They want more mackerel too.

Mackerel seem to be replacing some traditional staples of Icelandic ocean bounty, so Icelanders feel justified in catching mackerel. It does seem reasonable, since mackerel are now swarming around Iceland and the word on fishing for mackerel is that it's so good it's crazy.

Fish and fisheries will move as the ocean warms in coming years. Nations that traditionally caught certain fish will want to follow those fish north. But the nations that become new hosts of the fish will certainly want at least a piece of the action. And why not, since their traditional fish will likely have moved north into someone else's waters.

This is a mackerel war in name only, no actual shots are being fired, at least not yet. But the next one might not be so civilized. Real wars have been fought over less.