For those who have enjoyed the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch, (309 episodes and counting), which follows the lives and fortunes of fishermen who scour the Berring Sea, off Alaskan coast, for snow crabs, there is bad news. The snow crabs, an iconic species, are disappearing.
According to a study published in Science, between 2018 and 2021, some 10 billion snow crabs disappeared; revenues from snow crabs, which averaged about $150 million, fell to $24 million in the 2021-22 crabbing season.
Why? Marine heat waves, caused by global warming.
Snow crabs like it nice and cold; they live in waters that are about 20 C, though they can stay alive even up to 120 C. It was not the heat that killed the crabs, the study says, but the warming waters triggered off a chain of ecological events that resulted in not enough food for the crabs, causing them to starve to death.
“Calculated caloric requirements, reduced spatial distribution, and observed body conditions suggest that starvation played a role in the collapse. The mortality event appears to be one of the largest reported losses of motile marine macrofauna to marine heatwaves globally,” the scientists say.
With the next round of international climate negotiations (COP28) approaching, these findings should serve as a sharp reminder for urgent action.