The state's governor is calling the population's decline a disaster.
THE DESTRUCTIVE BLOB. In 2013, an unstoppable entity began terrorizing the Pacific. At times it spanned the entire stretch of ocean from Alaska to South America. No, it wasn't some hyper-aggressive shark or killer whale — it was "the blob," a mass of water several degrees warmer than the ocean's average temperature. It's the kind of thing you might (foolishly) welcome in a chilly swimming pool, but can cause absolute havoc in the ocean.
The cause, according to scientists: man-made climate change.
DEVASTATING FOR MAN AND FISH. Early in 2017, temperatures in parts of the ocean, including the Gulf of Alaska, returned to normal, but the blob's effects continue to linger in the region.
Thanks mainly to the blob, the Gulf's cod population is now at the lowest level ever recorded, an expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a U.S. agency focused on the world's bodies of water and atmosphere, told NPR. In March, Alaskan governor Bill Walker even reached out to the federal government to ask it to declare the state's cod fishery a disaster so former workers, and the governments that collected their taxes, would qualify for relief funds.
"Throughout the Gulf of Alaska, direct impacts will be felt by vessel owners and operators, crew, and fish processors, as well (as) support industries that sell fuel, supplies, and groceries," he wrote in his letter. "Local governments will feel the impact to their economic base and the State of Alaska will see a decline in fishery-related tax revenue.”
CODLESS FOREVER? While some researchers think the cod population could eventually recover, fisheries biologist Mike Litzow from the University of Alaska doesn't think it will. "When you push a population down really hard, the resources that population used to rely on can be exploited by other populations," he told NPR.
Ultimately, this could be another example of the widespread devastation caused by climate change, this time in the form of a murky ocean dweller known as the blob.
READ MORE: Gulf of Alaska Cod Are Disappearing. Blame 'the Blob' [NPR]
More on climate change: Marine Food Webs Are on the Brink of Collapse Because of Climate Change