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How rising temperatures have disrupted the seafood supply across the globe

Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita sat down with Chris Kerr, Good Catch CEO, to discuss how the change in temperature is directly impacting the global seafood supply. She joins Yahoo Finance's The First Trade to preview the latest episode of "Climate Crisis."

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: As lawmakers around the world shape economic policies to lead us out of this pandemic, there are renewed calls to focus on sustainability and the impact on the climate. 2020 is already shaping up to be one of the warmest years, if not the warmest year on record. Scientists say we can't afford to push climate action to the side.

Our very own Akiko Fujita joins us with the new series we're launching today called Climate Crisis. Akiko?

AKIKO FUJITA: Good morning to you, Brian. You're right. Well, stay-at-home restrictions that have been implemented over the last few months because of the coronavirus have led to a dramatic drop in carbon emissions. This year alone, we're expected to see a drop of a record 8% in those levels.

And scientists say that offers this unique opportunity, a reset, if you will, to recommit the world to slowing the pace of global warming. Over the next four weeks, we're going to be looking at how exactly global warming is affecting some of the communities around the US. And today, we're going to kick things off over in Massachusetts, where there are serious concerns about the sustainability of the food supply there.

It's a tradition steeped in 35 years of history. And for Bobby Colbert, his nephew, and brother, Denny, lobster fishing has been the only way of life--

BOBBY COLBERT: Are we going to [INAUDIBLE] around, Den?

AKIKO FUJITA: --they've really known.

BOBBY COLBERT: There you go. We were fishing in grade school in high school to make money. And at one point, Denny and I decided that maybe if we actually put some effort into this fishing thing, we could make some money at it. Here we go, Joe.

AKIKO FUJITA: But warming waters are threatening to disrupt Colbert's family business.

BOBBY COLBERT: Yep.

AKIKO FUJITA: Temperatures along the coast of Southern New England have climbed nine degrees since 2012. Nine degrees Fahrenheit-- help us understand how significant that is.

GLEN GAWARKIEWICZ: Typical temperature variations might be two degrees Fahrenheit there. And fish are probably sensitive at about one degree Fahrenheit there. So it's almost an order of magnitude more than you normally need to get some kind of a change.

AKIKO FUJITA: Scientist Glen Gawarkiewicz has been tracking the waters off of Cape Cod for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He says temperatures here are rising faster than any region in the world outside of the Arctic. And that's shifting the entire ecosystem, bringing non-native fish, like black sea bass, into unfamiliar waters.

GLEN GAWARKIEWICZ: They were found, for example, a lot off New Jersey. But now they're in Southern New England. And perhaps one of the most dramatic examples recently was in January of 2017, there were juvenile black sea bass that were caught near Block Island, south of the coast of Rhode Island there, in January. And that had never happened before.

BOBBY COLBERT: This is called the kitchen part of the trap.

AKIKO FUJITA: The changes have prompted scientists to lean on fishermen like Colbert to capture the temperature swings in the ocean, and determine how that affects his catch.

BOBBY COLBERT: Well, the trap comes up. We take it out. We put it into our mini logger here. It downloads the information into here. And then it downloads it into our iPad.

AKIKO FUJITA: Colbert hasn't seen a dramatic shift in the number of lobsters he catches, but warmer waters have pushed fishermen further off shore.

- So we're around this here, over here?

AKIKO FUJITA: Colbert is also expanding what he catches to reduce his reliance on lobsters.

BOBBY COLBERT: It has to be at least this wide. So you can see, this one has-- is well over the size, you know?

AKIKO FUJITA: The Jonah crab, once considered worthless, has seen its market value double in 20 years.

BOBBY COLBERT: It's exciting to be part of an industry that's really growing. To see that-- I mean, at our age, to see like wow, he's--

AKIKO FUJITA: You're introducing something new.

BOBBY COLBERT: Yeah, it's been under-utilized. And there's a huge biomass of them out there.

AKIKO FUJITA: Depleting fish stock have also given rise to another alternative. Chris Kerr is part of the growing plant-based movement, offering a substitute to seafood.

CHRIS KERR: We're just using legumes and plants. It's a very simple model that we have. You know, there's-- some people might say that there's a yuck factor to this idea of plant-based tuna. Compare it to a dead fish. You know, I think we're going to win that game.

AKIKO FUJITA: Good Catch only sells plant-based tuna now, but Kerr says the seafood industry is ripe for disruption. And it's the economics, not just environmental concerns, that are driving demand.

CHRIS KERR: So you still have to hunt for them. And if you have to go further and further, the economics dwindle. Going all the way to the Falkland Islands to bring a tuna fish sandwich to Maine doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

BOBBY COLBERT: Anything that would be bigger than this, we throw back in.

AKIKO FUJITA: Back on the cape, Colbert says the changing climate is changing the outlook for fishermen here.

BOBBY COLBERT: This one still has a ways to go to still be oversized.

AKIKO FUJITA: They're limiting the size of the lobsters they keep, protecting female lobsters capable of carrying eggs. An industry that once thrived on taking everything it can is now starting to think about leaving something behind.

BOBBY COLBERT: It has to be sustainable, because I mean, what-- I mean, we want to pass something on to the next generation and stuff. And it's a resource that the world eats.

AKIKO FUJITA: And climate, of course, not just an environmental issue, though, but a business one as well, Brian. And there's a recent report that point to a $1 trillion cost to the world's top 200 publicly listed companies if nothing is done about this. And that's just over the next five years.

BRIAN SOZZI: Akiko, throughout your talks with people as part of this package and series here on Yahoo Finance, did you get the sense that big corporate America is stepping up to help the climate change issue? Is the administration stepping up? Is anyone stepping up?

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, I think the administration needs to be set aside, because we've seen a lot of environmental regulation rolled back. Having said that, there is a sense here that corporate America is really looking to step up and fill the void that's been left by the federal government. And that's also because they're starting to see the impact of it.

You take insurance companies, for example. They are seeing record-- record write ups here because of the fires, because of the floods. Supply chains are being disrupted by the floods as well. So they are starting to see a direct impact.

You could argue pre-COVID, that was really the focus of 2020. But at the same time right now, there is a sense that this crisis is not going away. And if they don't address it right now alongside the coronavirus, you're going to be looking at dueling crises moving forward.

BRIAN SOZZI: Amazing work there, Akiko. Looking forward to watching the rest in the series. I'll talk to you son.