Climate Change's Effects on Predators and Prey - Oceana USA

Climate Change’s Effects on Predators and Prey

Global climate change is expected to have far-reaching, negative impacts on ocean predators.

In addition, rising sea temperatures, changing ocean currents and fluctuations in sea ice cover will alter the distribution and abundance of prey species. Prey shortages, resulting both from these threats as well as intense fishing pressure, have the potential to leave predators hungry.

Prey Fisheries and Climate

Prey fish are very sensitive to changes in temperatures and ocean currents and often require favorable conditions to find enough food and escape predators. For example, in years when warm El Niño currents bring the Peruvian anchoveta close to shore, the large schools of fish become easy targets for fisheries.

When unfavorable environmental conditions align with increased fishing pressure, prey species become depleted with devastating consequences to predators that depend on them for survival.

Predators and Sea Ice

Polar ecosystems are threatened by loss of sea ice due to a warming climate. Many important prey species, such as krill and Arctic cod, feed of off tiny plants and animals in ice ecosystems. Both krill and Arctic cod will decline as sea ice continues to melt, having considerable negative impacts on numerous marine predators.