Evidence of the impacts of anthropogenic climate change on marine ecosystems is accumulating, but must be evaluated in the context of the “normal” climate cycles and variability which have caused fluctuations in fisheries throughout human history. The impacts on fisheries are due to a variety of direct and indirect effects of a number of physical and chemical factors, which include temperature, winds, vertical mixing, salinity, oxygen, pH and others.
Cumulative human pressure on the Earth’s systems is changing both terrestrial and marine systems in significant ways – shifts in temperature, water levels, winds, extreme events and associated changes in habitat, flora and fauna. For industries, such as fisheries, and societies to remain viable despite the change they will need to adapt to it, as they have adapted to many other changes through time. There are wide range of research projects into the mechanisms that assist or hinder adaptation.
In Alaska, the fishing industry has advantages in adapting to climate-related change, but is vulnerable in ways that some other regions are not. This publication explains the effects of climate change on fisheries in Alaska and worldwide, and suggests ways in which Alaska’s fishermen and fishing-dependent communities can adapt. It also defines adaptation and related terms, and summarizes the state of knowledge on fisheries adaptations worldwide.
Decision-makers in fisheries management are confronted with the challenge of how to respond to existing and predicted changes in ocean conditions that are likely to affect the stocks of fish they manage. In order to address climate change most research and thinking advises decision-makers to ensure that fisheries are well-managed and abundant in an ecosystem context. These policies can best allow fisheries to adapt to changing climate. To address climate change, decision-makers should carefully monitor changing conditions and potential changes in factors affecting fish stock abundance.
Global climate change is impacting and will continue to impact marine and estuarine fish and fisheries. Data trends show global climate change effects ranging from increased oxygen consumption rates in fishes, to changes in foraging and migrational patterns in polar seas, to fish community changes in bleached tropical coral reefs. Projections of future conditions portend further impacts on the distribution and abundance of fishes associated with relatively small temperature changes.
The Institute of Arctic Biology was founded in 1963 by the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska with Laurence Irving, a pioneer in the field of comparative physiology, as the founding director.
Adaptation research varies by faculty member, post-doctoral fellow, and graduate student. Several scientists are actively engaged in research that addresses the human dimensions of wildlife, others are involved in decision analysis - a systematic method for making natural resource decisions, and others are investigating changes to the boreal environment and how those changes are affecting human communities.
Since publishing Seasons’ End: Global Warming’s Threat to Hunting and Fishing, the urgency to address the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife has become increasingly evident. Already waterfowl exhibit changes in seasonal distribution. Higher water temperatures and diminished stream habitat are threatening coldwater fish such as trout and salmon. Big game are shifting to more northerly latitudes and to higher elevations to escape summer heat and find suitable forage.
Climate change is the primary long-term challenge facing Oregon’s people, ecosystems, and economies. Immediate action is needed to prepare for and proactively adapt to the consequences of climate change. State-level preparedness will be critical in coping with projected changes such as increased temperatures, rising sea levels and increased storm surges, declining snowpack, more frequent extreme precipitation events, and an increased risk of drought and heat waves. These changes have already created a broad array of secondary effects in Oregon’s ecosystems.