Guidelines for incorporating fish distribution shifts into a fisheries management context
The impacts of climate change have been demonstrated to influence fisheries resources. One way climate has affected fish stocks is via persistent shifts in spatio-temporal distribution. Although examples of climate-forced distribution shifts abound, it is unclear how these shifts are practically accounted for in the management of fish stocks. In particular, how can we take into account shifting stock distribution in the context of stock assessments and their management outputs? Here, we discuss examples of the types of fish stock distribution shifts that can occur. We then propose a decision tree framework of how shifting stock distributions can be addressed. Generally, the approaches for addressing such shifts fall into one of three main alternatives: re-evaluate stock identification, re-evaluate a stock unit area, or implement spatially explicit modelling. We conclude by asserting that the approach recommended here is feasible with existing information and as such fisheries managers should be able to begin addressing the role of changes in stock distribution in these fish stocks. The implications of not doing so could be notably undesirable.