Taiwan researchers link coral shrimp migration to global warming

01/19/2023 05:11 PM
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Professor Chen Meng-hsien. Photo courtesy of National Sun Yat-sen University
Professor Chen Meng-hsien. Photo courtesy of National Sun Yat-sen University's Department of Oceanography

Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) Once abundant coral shrimp (parapenaeopsis cornuta), known for its pronounced umami and succulent and juicy texture, has migrated 55 kilometers north from coastal waters near Kaohsiung due to global warming, a research team in Taiwan has found.

Coral shrimp was previously a major catch for fishermen operating in the area between Kaohsiung's Qieding and Zuoying districts, but has gradually faded from resident's memories, said Chen Meng-hsien (陳孟仙), a professor at National Sun Yat-sen University's Department of Oceanography, who led the research.

During the teams' surveys in 2019, it stumbled upon the shrimp in waters north of Tainan's Cigu District, concentrating in the offshore Wanggong area, while records from that year from the shrimp's original habitat of Qieding indicated only sporadic sightings, Chen said.

The boundary offsetting the two maritime areas largely conformed to the southernmost point to which the cold coastal currents originating in waters off China's east coast travel, she said.

The researchers' findings suggested that the shrimp had migrated north over a distance of approximately 0.5 degrees latitude, or 55.5 km, to an area characterized by lower water temperatures of under 25 degrees Celsius.

According to Chen, this same area is where subtropical shrimps such as the Parapenaeopsis Sinica, are found.

Professor Chen Meng-hsien (front, center). Photo courtesy of National Sun Yat-sen University
Professor Chen Meng-hsien (front, center). Photo courtesy of National Sun Yat-sen University's Department of Oceanography

Meanwhile, waters south of Qieding are passed by the Kuroshio Current and the South China Sea Warm Current and are inhabited by tropical shrimps, such as velvet shrimp species, she said.

Data compiled back in 2002 and 2003 showed that the coral shrimp could readily be found in the waters off Qieding, and its population in the area likely started to shrink at some point between then and 2019, she said.

Chen voiced concern that the migration would ultimately lead to the shrimp's disappearance from Taiwan's coastal waters and called on researchers to pay attention to changes in the numbers of sea creatures in Taiwan's offshore areas.

In the meantime, people should refrain from using gill nets when catching shrimp, so that fry can have a chance to grow into adults and breed, she said.

Coupled with the definition of moratoriums in the wake of climate change, this would create a win-win situation for sustainable fisheries and the preservation of marine animals, Chen said.

(By Hung Hsueh-kuang and Sean Lin)

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