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Fisheries and climate change

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fishing with a lift net in Bangladesh. Coastal fishing communities in Bangladesh are vulnerable to flooding from sea-level rises.[1]
Fishing with a lift net in Bangladesh. Coastal fishing communities in Bangladesh are vulnerable to flooding from sea-level rises.[1]

Rising ocean temperatures[2] and ocean acidification[3] are radically altering aquatic ecosystems. Climate change is modifying fish distribution[4] and the productivity of marine and freshwater species. This has impacts on the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture, on the livelihoods of the communities that depend on fisheries, and on the ability of the oceans to capture and store carbon (biological pump). The effect of sea level rise means that coastal fishing communities are in the front line of climate change, while changing rainfall patterns and water use impact on inland (freshwater) fisheries and aquaculture. The full relationship between fisheries and climate change is difficult to explore due to the context of each fishery and the many pathways that climate change affects.[5]

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  • ✪ Fisheries, Aquaculture and Climate Change: A New Jersey Perspective


Climate change is real, and human actions are causing it. And the amazing thing is that we're seeing the impacts all over the world right now including in the oceans. We have animals that are found much closer to the poles than they they used to be. We have animals breeding earlier in the year, and these changes cascade all the way out. They're affecting our fisheries. They're affecting our economies. And ultimately they affect our planet. Climate change is certainly real. It's been affecting our local businesses. It's been affecting our local ecosystems. We can see it on a global scale, but we can also see it here in New Jersey. Regardless of what causes it, we have climate change. We're living in a time when the climate is changing. So that needs to be addressed scientifically and made part of the fisheries management process. Globally the ocean is about half a degree warmer than it was a hundred years ago. That's the impact of global climate change. It doesn't sound like much, but actually compared to what marine animals are used to that's a very large change. It's far outside what many species are used to over the lifetime of an individual or an entire evolutionary lineage. We can see fish stocks moving out of the region that were traditionally part of the fishery. Things like lobster used to get fished here in a bigger way, and today there's very little lobster fishing here because the lobster have moved north. Many species that used to be found off Virginia are now actually being found much more commonly off New Jersey—species like black sea bass, summer flounder. We're also seeing shrimp that used to be more commonly found in the southeast U.S. now showing up in marshes and estuaries in this region. So we're seeing many species moving north in this region that we haven't seen before. We historically had a mackerel fishery here ever since I've been in this business, and about seven or eight years ago we started to see a decline in mackerel catches. At the same time, we saw a drastic increase in the catch of mackerel in Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands—fish, you know, that they basically never had there before. We're still collecting a lot of the information about how impacts from climate change are filtering through fisheries and affecting fisheries, but some of the stories are becoming quite clear. One of the impacts we understand the best right now is on surf claims. So the species had a really big fishery here on the East Coast, but surf claims have been dying at the southern edge of the range—so in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia as temperatures get really warm there. But, it turns out, they're booming in Massachusetts. And what this means is that the stock is no longer accessible to the places that used to fish it. Some of the ports in Maryland, for example, or Virginia, now can no longer support the fishery, and so those captains and crew have either had to shift north as well and start fishing out of northern ports, which is very costly and very hard on family life, and in fact they've had to reposition processing plants and some of these value-added pieces of the industry. There's a great deal of uncertainty still associated with how climate change will affect shellfish diseases. Just like ranges shift for fish stocks, ranges can shift for these disease pathogens as well. One of the things that we have seen recently, which we think has something to do with warming, is an invasion of parasites in the southern part of the scallop fishery, and that's something that we haven't seen before. Whether that's caused by warming or not caused by warming, I don't know that. But it's certainly something we're very concerned with. Ocean acidification is the other carbon dioxide problem, one that we we don't talk about as much. When carbon dioxide dissolves into ocean water, it actually reduces the pH. It makes the water more acidic than it has been before, and it makes it much harder for marine animals to make their shells. So their shells get more brittle, often their survival goes down or the reproduction goes down. In talking with fishermen who rely on shellfish resources or aquaculturists who grow shellfish, I'm often asked how is ocean acidification going to affect my business, my fishing. These people have heard what ocean acidification is, but how it's going to affect their bottom line isn't clear, and I think that's a really important issue for us to address as a science community. For example, sea scallops here on the East Coast is the most valuable fishery in the United States—about 110 million dollars here in New Jersey, about 600 million dollars nationally. And this is a species that's very sensitive to ocean acidification. So they're big worries about what will happen going forward. Sea level rise is also a major issue for coastal communities and the fishing communities that live and work in these areas. As the ocean heats up, sea water expands, and the ocean level rises because of that. And then at the same time, glaciers and ice caps melt, and that additional water in the ocean also raises the sea level. We're seeing the docks and the infrastructure associated with the packing plants, these places are getting flooded. For example, here in Cape May we have a number of restaurants or businesses that get regularly flooded now, and they didn't 20, 30 years ago. So fisheries rely on much more than just the fish, right? So they need docks, they need processing plants, they need suppliers for hooks and lines and nets. And many of those businesses and other infrastructure are right along the coast, so they're really vulnerable to rising sea level and especially the storms that come in on top of that. As climate change affects life in the ocean, affects where fish are found, we're seeing those economic impacts ripple through fisheries, ripple through coastal communities, and ripple through regional economies. These range shifts are happening, and they're happening at different rates, and we don't know very well what the interactions might be. What we do know is that it's affecting the fishermen and the communities that are physically associated with the traditional ranges. Our fisheries regulations are based on this assumption that fish stay put. But they don't. So for example, quota—who gets to catch the fish— has been allocated based on where fish were in the 80s. There's a real problem still in the regulatory process as concerns species moving out of the area most likely due to warming. Fish have fins for a reason. They move and they swim to where, you know, things are best for them. And the regulatory process is very slow and very cumbersome, takes a long time to change things around. There are many things that the fishing industry can do to adapt. One is to work with management councils and the researchers to understand the changes that are happening. People out on these fishing boats are on the front lines. They're seeing these changes in the ocean before anyone else is seeing them.They also usually have the knowledge to know what things used to be like so helping to communicate those those impacts understand how the ocean is changing is is critical. I think the biggest deficit that we have in fisheries management right now is, you know, where there's not enough money being spent on science. You know, we need more science. The more we know the better we can manage. We try to provide our science as openly and as rapidly as we can to both management agencies and industry and academia, and hopefully that will be effective in bringing sustainable management to these industries. Fishermen realize in order to have successful business and for their children to have a successful business, for their businesses to survive, that we have to have a healthy resource of sustainable, renewable resource that we can count on. The key point is that the oceans are warmer and more acidic than any point in recorded history, maybe even more than any point in the history of modern humans. And I think everyone alive today should be worried about that. This affects our economy, this affects our dinner plates, this affects the planet. And so I think the key questions are what do we do going forward.


Role of oceans

Island with fringing reef in the Maldives. Coral reefs are dying around the world.[6]
Island with fringing reef in the Maldives. Coral reefs are dying around the world.[6]

Oceans and coastal ecosystems play an important role in the global carbon cycle and have removed about 25% of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities between 2000 and 2007 and about half the anthropogenic CO2 released since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification means that the capacity of the ocean carbon sink will gradually get weaker,[7] giving rise to global concerns expressed in the Monaco[8] and Manado[9] Declarations. Healthy ocean ecosystems are essential for the mitigation of climate change.[10] Coral reefs provide habitat for millions of fish species and with no change it can provoke these reefs to die.

Impact on fish production

The rising ocean acidity makes it more difficult for marine organisms such as shrimps, oysters, or corals to form their shells – a process known as calcification. Many important animals, such as zooplankton, that forms the base of the marine food chain have calcium shells. Thus the entire marine food web is being altered – there are ‘cracks in the food chain’. As a result, the distribution,[11] productivity, and species composition of global fish production is changing,[12] generating complex and inter-related impacts[13] on oceans, estuaries, coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds that provide habitats and nursery areas for fish. Changing rainfall patterns and water scarcity is impacting on river and lake fisheries and aquaculture production.[14][15] After the ice age about 200,000 years ago, the global air temperature has risen 3 degrees, leading to an increase in sea temperatures.[16]

Fish populations of skipjack tuna and bigeye tuna are expected to be displaced further to the east due to the effects of climate change on ocean temperatures and currents.[17] This will shift the fishing grounds toward the Pacific islands and away from its primary owner of Melanesia, disrupting western Pacific canneries, shifting tuna production elsewhere, and having an uncertain effect on food security.

Species that are over-fished, such as the variants of Atlantic cod, are more susceptible to the effects of climate change. Over-fished populations have less size, genetic diversity, and age than other populations of fish.[18] This makes them more susceptible to environment related stress, including those resulting from climate change. In the case of Atlantic cod located in the Baltic Sea, which are stressed close to their upper limits, this could lead to consequences related to the population's average size and growth.

Due to climate change, the distribution of zooplankton has changed. Cool water cope-pod assemblages have moved north because the waters get warmer, they have been replaced by warm water cope-pods assemblages however it has a lower biomass and certain small species. Atlantic cod require a diet of large cope-pods but because they have moved pole-wards morality rates are high and as a result the recruitment of this cod has plummeted[19]

Impact on fishing communities

Fisherman landing his catch, Seychelles
Fisherman landing his catch, Seychelles

Coastal and fishing populations[20] and countries dependent on fisheries[21] are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Low-lying countries such as the Maldives[22] and Tuvalu are particularly vulnerable and entire communities may become the first climate refugees. Fishing communities in Bangladesh are subject not only to sea-level rise, but also flooding and increased typhoons. Fishing communities along the Mekong river produce over 1 million tons of basa fish annually and livelihoods and fish production will suffer from saltwater intrusion resulting from rising sea level and dams.[23]

While climate change increases the effects of human activities, the inverse is also applicable. Human activities also increase the impact of climate change. Human activity has been linked to lake nutrition levels, which high levels are correlated to increasing vulnerability to climate change. Lake Annecy, Lake Geneva, and Lake Bourget were subject to experiments related to their zooplankton.[24] Lake Geneva and Lake Bourget had relatively high levels of nutrients and responded at a significant level towards factors related to climate change, such as weather variability. Lake Annecy had the lowest amount of nutrition levels and responded comparatively poorly.

Fisheries and aquaculture contribute significantly to food security and livelihoods. Fish provides essential nutrition for 3 billion people and at least 50% of animal protein and minerals to 400 million people from the poorest countries.[25] This food security is threatened by climate change and the increasing world population. Climate change changes several parameters of the fishing population: availability, stability, access, and utilization.[26] The specific effects of climate change on these parameters will vary widely depending on the characteristics of the area, with some areas benefiting from the shift in trends and some areas being harmed based on the factors of exposure, sensitivity, and ability to respond to said changes.The lack of oxygen in warmer waters will possibly lead to the extinction of aquatic animals[27] Worldwide food security may not change significantly, however rural and poor populations would be disproportionately and negatively affected based on this criteria, as they lack the resources and manpower to rapidly change their infrastructure and adapt. Over 500 million people in developing countries depend, directly or indirectly, on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods - aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production system, growing at 7% annually and fish products are among the most widely traded foods, with more than 37% (by volume) of world production traded internationally.[28]

Adaptation and mitigation

The impacts of climate change can be addressed through adaptation and mitigation. The costs and benefits of adaptation are essentially local or national, while the costs of mitigation are essentially national whereas the benefits are global. Some activities generate both mitigation and adaptation benefits, for example, the restoration of mangrove forests can protect shorelines from erosion and provide breeding grounds for fish while also sequestering carbon.


Several international agencies, including the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization[29] have programs to help countries and communities adapt to global warming, for example by developing policies to improve the resilience[30] of natural resources, through assessments of risk and vulnerability, by increasing awareness[31] of climate change impacts and strengthening key institutions, such as for weather forecasting and early warning systems.[32] The World Development Report 2010 - Development and Climate Change, Chapter 3[33] shows that reducing overcapacity in fishing fleets and rebuilding fish stocks can both improve resilience to climate change and increase economic returns from marine capture fisheries by US$50 billion per year, while also reducing GHG emissions by fishing fleets. Consequently, removal of subsidies on fuel for fishing can have a double benefit by reducing emissions and overfishing.

Investment in sustainable aquaculture[34] can buffer water use in agriculture while producing food and diversifying economic activities. Algal biofuels also show potential as algae can produce 15-300 times more oil per acre than conventional crops, such as rapeseed, soybeans, or jatropha and marine algae do not require scarce freshwater. Programs such as the GEF-funded Coral Reef Targeted Research provide advice on building resilience and conserving coral reef ecosystems,[35] while six Pacific countries recently gave a formal undertaking to protect the reefs in a biodiversity hotspot – the Coral Triangle.[36]


The oceans have removed 50%[37] of the anthropogenic CO2, so the oceans have absorbed much of the impact of climate change. The famous White Cliffs of Dover illustrate how the ocean captures and buries carbon. These limestone cliffs are formed from the skeletons of marine plankton called coccoliths. Similarly, petroleum formation is attributed largely to marine and aquatic plankton further illustrating the key role of the oceans in carbon sequestration.

Exactly how the oceans capture and bury CO2 is the subject of intense research[38] by scientists worldwide, such as the Carboocean Project.[39] The current level of GHG emissions means that ocean acidity will continue to increase and aquatic ecosystems will continue to degrade and change. There are feedback mechanisms involved here. For example, warmer waters can absorb less CO2, so as ocean temperatures rise some dissolved CO2 will be released back into the atmosphere. Warming also reduces nutrient levels in the mesopelagic zone (about 200 to 1000 m deep). This in turn limits the growth of diatoms in favour of smaller phytoplankton that are poorer biological pumps of carbon. This inhibits the ability of the ocean ecosystems to sequester carbon as the oceans warm.[40] What is clear, is that healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems are necessary to continue the vital role of the ocean carbon sinks, as indicated, for example, by the Blue Carbon[41] assessment prepared by UNEP and the coastal carbon sinks report[42] of IUCN and growing evidence of the role of fish biomass[43] in the transport of carbon from surface waters to the deep ocean.

While the various carbon finance instruments include restoration of forests (REDD) and producing clean energy (emissions trading), few address the need to finance healthy ocean and aquatic ecosystems although these are essential for continued uptake of CO2 and GHGs. The scientific basis for ocean fertilization – to produce more phytoplankton to increase the uptake of CO2 – has been challenged, and proposals for burial of CO2 in the deep ocean have come under criticism from environmentalists.


Although there is a decline of fisheries due to climate change, a related cause for this decrease is due to over-fishing. Over-fishing exacerbates the effects of climate change by creating conditions that make a fishing population more sensitive to environmental changes. Studies show that the state of the ocean is causing fisheries to collapse, and in areas where fisheries have not yet collapsed, the amount of over-fishing that is done is having a significant impact on the industry.[44] Over-fishing is due to having access to the open sea, it makes it very easy for people to over fish, even if it is just for fun. There is also a high demand for sea food by fishermen, as well modern technology that has increased the amount of fish caught during each trip.[44]

If there was a specific amount of fish that people were allowed to catch then this could very well solve the problem of over fishing.[44] This type of limit system is in place in a few countries including New Zealand, Norway, Canada, and the United States. In these countries the limit system has successfully helped in fishing industries.[44] These types of limit systems are called Individual fishing quota. This means that the areas where this quota exist, the government has legal entity over it and in these boundaries they are entitled to utilize their ocean resources as they wish.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Sarwar G.M. (2005). "Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the Coastal Zone of Bangladesh" (PDF). Lund University. Archived from the original (pdf) on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2013. Masters thesis
  2. ^ Observations: Oceanic Climate Change and Sea Level In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (15MB).
  3. ^ Doney, S. C. (March 2006). "The Dangers of Ocean Acidification" (PDF). Scientific American.
  4. ^ Cheung, W.W.L.; et al. (October 2009). "Redistribution of Fish Catch by Climate Change. A Summary of a New Scientific Analysis" (PDF). Pew Ocean Science Series. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26.
  5. ^ Vincent, Warwick; et. al (2006). "Climate Impacts on Arctic Freshwater Ecosystems and Fisheries: Background, Rationale and Approach of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA)". Ambio. 35 (7): 326–329. JSTOR 4315751.
  6. ^ Coral reefs around the world, 2 September 2009.
  7. ^ UNEP, FAO, IOC (2009-11-25). "Blue Carbon. The role of healthy oceans in binding carbon" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Monaco Declaration Archived 2009-02-06 at the Wayback Machine. and Ocean Acidification Archived 2010-09-23 at the Wayback Machine. A Summary for Policymakers from the Second Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World.] Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL) of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research. 2008.
  9. ^ Manado Ocean Declaration World Ocean Conference Ministerial/High Level Meeting. Manado, Indonesia, 11–14 May 2009.
  10. ^ PACFA (2009). "Fisheries and Aquaculture in a Changing Climate" (PDF).
  11. ^ Changing distribution of fish in USA (Youtube)
  12. ^ FAO (2008) Report of the FAO Expert Workshop on Climate Change Implications for Fisheries and AquaculturMelanesiae Rome, Italy, 7–9 April 2008. FAO Fisheries Report No. 870.
  13. ^ Brander KM (December 2007). "Global fish production and climate change". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104 (50): 19709–14. Bibcode:2007PNAS..10419709B. doi:10.1073/pnas.0702059104. PMC 2148362. PMID 18077405.
  14. ^ Ficke, A.D., Myrick, C.A. & Hansen, L.J. (2007). "Potential impacts of global climate change on freshwater fisheries" (PDF). Fish Biology and Fisheries. 17 (4): 581–613. doi:10.1007/s11160-007-9059-5.
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  17. ^ "Fisheries and Climate Change" (PDF). Think Asia. ADB. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  18. ^ Stenseth, Nils; et. al (2010). "Ecological forecasting under climate change: the case of Baltic cod". Proceedings: Biological Sciences. 277 (1691): 2121–2130. JSTOR 25706431.
  19. ^ Richardson, A. J. (2008). "In hot water: Zooplankton and climate change". ICES Journal of Marine Science. 65 (3): 279–295. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsn028.
  20. ^ Allison, E. H. et al. (2005) "Effects of climate change on the sustainability of capture and enhancement fisheries important to the poor: analysis of the vulnerability and adaptability of fisherfolk living in poverty"[permanent dead link] London, Fisheries Management Science Programme MRAG/DFID, Project no. R4778J. Final Technical Report, 164 pp.
  21. ^ Allison, E.H.; et al. (2009). "Vulnerability of national economies to the impacts of climate change on fisheries" (PDF). Fish and Fisheries. 10 (2): 173–96. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1467-2979.2008.00310.x.
  22. ^ Maldives President addresses the UN Climate Change Conference (Youtube)
  23. ^ Halls, A.S. (May 2009). "Fisheries Research and Development in the Mekong Region". Catch and Culture: Fisheries Research and Development in the Mekong Region. 15 (1). Archived from the original on 2011-06-05.
  24. ^ Perga, Marie-Elodie; et. al (2013). "Local forcings affect lake zooplankton vulnerability and response to climate warming". Ecology. 94 (12): 2767–2780. JSTOR 23597124.
  25. ^ WorldFish Center, 2008. The Millennium Development Goals: Fishing for a Future: Reducing poverty and hunger by improving fisheries and aquaculture Archived 2009-08-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Garcia, Serge (2010). "Food security and marine capture fisheries: characteristics, trends, drivers and future perspectives". Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences. 365 (1554): 2869–2880. JSTOR 20752984.
  27. ^ Portner, H & Knust, R (2007). Climate Change Affects Marine Fishes Through the Oxygen Limitation or Thermal Tolerance. Science, 315(5808), pp 95-97
  28. ^ FAO (2009) The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture[permanent dead link] Rome.
  29. ^ FAO (2007) Building adaptive capacity to climate change. Policies to sustain livelihoods and fisheries
  30. ^ Allison, E.H.; et al. (2007). "Enhancing the resilience of inland fisheries and aquaculture systems to climate change". Journal of Semi-Arid Tropical Agricultural Research. 4 (1).
  31. ^ Dulvy, N.; Allison, E. (28 May 2009). "A place at the table?". Nature Reports Climate Change (906): 68. doi:10.1038/climate.2009.52.
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  35. ^ Coral Reef Targeted Research (2008) Climate change: It’s now or never to save coral reefs CFTR Advisory Panel 2 Issue 1.
  36. ^ Coral Triangle Agreement (YouTube)
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  40. ^ Buesseler, Ken O.; et al. (2007-04-27). "Revisiting Carbon Flux Through the Ocean's Twilight Zone" (abstract). Science. 316 (5824): 567–70. Bibcode:2007Sci...316..567B. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1137959. PMID 17463282. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
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