In late July 2013, the Island Institute hosted a workshop with approximately 110 fishermen, scientists, managers, policy makers, non-governmental organizations, and others in Portland, Maine. The goal—to discuss the latest science of climate change and the ocean, as well as changes fishermen are seeing at sea. The workshop focused on improving our collective understanding of how climate change is impacting New England fisheries and fishermen.
Fish population variability and fisheries activities are closely linked to weather and climate dynamics. While weather at sea directly affects fishing, environmental variability determines the distribution, migration, and abundance of fish. Fishery science grew up during the last century by integrating knowledge from oceanography, fish biology, marine ecology, and fish population dynamics, largely focused on the great Northern Hemisphere fisheries. During this period, understanding and explaining interannual fish recruitment variability became a major focus for fisheries oceanographers.
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.