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Signature of climate-induced changes in seafood species served in restaurants


Climate change is causing shifts in biogeography of marine species, towards higher latitude, deeper waters, or following local temperature gradients. Such species distribution changes are affecting global fisheries through increasing the dominance of warmer-water preferred species as ocean temperature increases. Previous modeling analyses projected that climate-induced changes in seafood availability would affect the entire seafood chain. However, observed climate impacts on seafood retailers and consumers have rarely been demonstrated. Seafood restaurants usually rely on the supply of locally caught species, and thus the impacts of changing catches on the food they serve, and consequently on their diners, may be reflected in their menus. In this study, 362 restaurant menus from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, were collated and analyzed over four different time periods (1880–1960, 1961–1980, 1981–1996, and 2019–2021). Moreover, 148 present-day menus from two other cities north (Anchorage, AK, USA) and south (Los Angeles, CA, USA) of Vancouver were also collected. An index, herein called Mean Temperature of Restaurant Seafood (MTRS), was calculated from the average temperature preference of the species of seafood identified in the menus for each time period or location. Overall, the MTRS of menus from Vancouver increased from 10.7 ± 0.7 °C to 13.8 ± 1.0 °C (95% confidence intervals) between 1888–1960 and 2019–2021. Present-day MTRS was among the highest in Los Angeles (16.5 ± 1.7 °C) and lowest in Anchorage (9.6 ± 1.0 °C). The temporal and spatial variations in MTRS are significantly related to observed patterns of average sea surface temperature and the Mean Temperature of the Catch. This suggests that restaurant menus may be used as a complementary information source regarding changes in marine ecosystems and fisheries and the seafood sector’s responses to these changes. This study also highlights the value of using unconventional information sources and their applications in the detection of climate impacts on oceans and their dependent human communities.

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The authors are grateful for the financial support provided through the Undergraduate Student Research Award and Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. We are grateful for the comments from the referees that help improve the manuscript.


This study was funded by the Undergraduate Student Research Award and Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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WLC conceived the study. All authors contributed to the design, analysis, and writing of the manuscript. Material preparation and data collection were performed by JN. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to William W. L. Cheung.

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This study is based solely on publicly available information. No ethics approval is required by the University of British Columbia Research Ethics Boards.

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Ng, JP., Cheung, W.W.L. Signature of climate-induced changes in seafood species served in restaurants. Environ Biol Fish 105, 1463–1474 (2022).

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  • Climate change
  • Seafood
  • Species composition
  • Restaurant menu
  • North America