The State of Climate Adaptation in U.S. Marine Fisheries Management

This report presents the results of EcoAdapt’s efforts to survey adaptation action in marine fisheries management by examining the major climate impacts on marine and coastal fisheries in the United States, assessing related challenges to fisheries management, and presenting examples of actions taken to decrease vulnerability and/or increase resilience. First, we provide a summary of climate change impacts and secondary effects on fisheries, focusing on changes in air and water temperatures, precipitation patterns, storms, ocean circulation, sea level rise, and water chemistry. We then examine non-climatic factors that affect fisheries management, such as overfishing, bycatch, pollution, habitat degradation and modification, invasive and non-native species, and conflicting uses of marine and coastal ecosystems. Next, we examine how the aforementioned issues combine to influence abundance and productivity, distribution and recruitment, and essential fish habitat. Then we present the results of a survey sent to federal, tribal, state, and other practitioners to identify challenges, needs, and opportunities for climate-informed fisheries management and conservation. Summaries of and trends in commonly used adaptation approaches and examples from our survey and other resources are presented in four broad categories (Gregg et al. 2011; Gregg et al. 2012):

  1. Capacity Building: Strategies include conducting research and assessments, investing in training and outreach efforts, developing new tools and resources, and monitoring climate change impacts and adaptation effectiveness.
  2. Policy: Strategies include developing adaptation plans, creating new or enhancing existing policies, and developing adaptive management strategies.
  3. Natural Resource Management and Conservation: Strategies include incorporating climate change into restoration efforts, enhancing connectivity, reducing local change, and reducing non-climate stressors that may exacerbate the effects of climate change.
  4. Infrastructure, Planning, and Development: Strategies include protecting critical coastal infrastructure used by the fishing industry, and creating or modifying coastal development measures (e.g., removing shoreline hardening, encouraging low-impact development) to increase habitat resilience.

The majority of adaptation efforts in fisheries management to date have been focused on capacity building, including conducting research and assessments, creating resources and tools, and monitoring how climatic changes are affecting species, habitats, and fishing communities. Finally, we discuss several more options to advance adaptation in the fisheries sector that are either not yet represented or are only partially addressed by the examples from our survey. 

Cost-Efficient Climate Change Adaptation in the North Atlantic

This report summarizes the work of two NOAA-funded graduate fellows research on community-level coastal flood management and climate change adaptation best practices throughout the North Atlantic region (Virginia to Maine). Guided by a steering committee composed of government and academic personnel involved with climate adaptation throughout the North Atlantic, the fellows visited coastal communities to collect information on low-cost climate change and related coastal hazard management best practices. The purpose of the work was to identify and collate cost-effective adaptation projects implemented at the municipal level, to provide NOAA with best practice information to assist with ongoing adaptation outreach.

Hawaiian Islands Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation Synthesis

The goal of the Hawaiian Islands Climate Synthesis Project was to develop comprehensive, science-based syntheses of current and projected future climate change impacts on, and adaptation options for, terrestrial and freshwater resources within the main Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiian Islands Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation Synthesis presents the results of the major project components - climate impacts assessment, vulnerability assessment, and adaptation planning - and provides an inter-island analysis of the findings. More detailed information is available in the individual vulnerability assessment syntheses and adaptation summaries, and should be referred to for decision support, which can be found at

Coastal Land Loss and the Mitigation-Adaptation Dilemma: Between Scylla and Charybdis

Coastal land loss is an inevitable consequence of the confluence of three primary factors: population growth, vanishing wetlands, and rising sea levels. Society may either mitigate coastal land loss by engaging in human engineering projects that create technological solutions or restore natural processes that protect the coastal zone, or it may choose to adapt to coastal land loss by shifting development and other human and economic resources out of areas especially at risk for coastal land loss. This Article first details the primary threats to coastal lands. Next, the Article discusses two primary means of addressing coastal land loss— mitigation and adaptation—applying those terms slightly differently than they are used in the broader climate change context in order to focus more precisely on the coastal land loss phenomena and its solutions. Finally, the Article makes three normative claims for why policy-makers should approach coastal land loss mitigation in particular with caution: (1) uncertainty of mitigation’s effectiveness scientifically and institutionally; (2) the political expediency of choosing mitigation over adaptation; and (3) the fact that failure to adapt past land-use activities in the coastal zone has contributed to the need to adapt or mitigate today.

Incorporating Sea Level Change Scenarios at the Local Level

Just as ooding threats need to be factored into coastal community planning initiatives, so too should sea level change. Unfortunately, the “one size ts all” approach does not work.

The level of uncertainty represented in sea level projections is one challenge. Furthermore, universal projections can’t be uniformly applied to all communities because of the many local variables. These variables include subsidence or uplift, and changes in estuarine and shelf hydrodynamics, regional oceanographic circulation patterns, and river ows. Local calculations are needed.

Then add in the local response, where many variables come into play as well. Even if two communities have similar projection numbers, their responses are likely to be widely di erent because of the external factors speci c to their locations that must be considered, such as anticipated local risk, community will, and the type of planning process in which the numbers will be used.

Incorporating sea level change into planning processes involves more than selecting a number. That is why this document advocates the scenario approach.

Using the information provided here, communities can develop a process that incorporates a range of possibilities and factors. With this information various scenarios can be developed, both in terms of projections and responses, to meet the speci c circumstances of a community. Moreover, working through the scenario development process provides the data and information that o cials will need to make communities readily adaptable to changing circumstances. 


NOAA Guidance for Considering the Use of Living Shorelines

Coastal communities face constant challenges from shoreline erosion. Although erosion is a natural coastal process, many valuable resources border the nation’s coastline. Shorelines need protection from damage caused by intense storms, wave erosion, and sea level rise. Shoreline stabilization does not need to create a barrier between land and water, as happens with hard shoreline stabilization structures like seawalls and bulkheads. New stabilization options, like living shorelines, are gaining attention as an alternative to traditional shoreline stabilization techniques. Living shorelines can reduce damage and erosion while simultaneously providing ecosystem services to society, including food production, nutrient and sediment removal, and water quality improvement.

This guidance is intended to provide information on NOAA’s perspective and roles regarding living shorelines implementation. It starts by describing NOAA living shorelines guiding principles, then highlights NOAA’s role in providing science, tools, and training to help inform the selection of appropriate techniques. It also discusses the agency’s role in reviewing living shoreline projects, depending on their location and potential effect on habitats of concern to NOAA, such as critical habitat, essential fish habitat, or protected areas. This guidance also provides a conceptual framework of 12 questions to help NOAA and our partners when planning a shoreline stabilization effort.

Relocation Report: Newtok to Mertarvik

This report presents work to date towards the development of a Strategic Management Plan (SMP) for the relocation of the village of Newtok to a new site at Mertarvik. Newtok is a growing 350-person coastal village fronting on the Ninglick River in western Alaska. The Ninglick River is rapidly eroding and consuming community land and facilities as it advances. The most recent prediction from 2007 is that the river could reach the school by 2017 and several houses in between even sooner.

In general, this project’s scope of work spans two phases. Phase 1, the focus of the preparation of background planning information. Phase 2 focuses on the development of the guiding principles and overall framework for relocation and the production of a SMP, which will be issued later this year. However, this Phase 1 report previews the beginnings of the SMP, hence the title Relocation Report.

The Salt Marsh Advancement Zone Assessment for Connecticut


55 Church Street
06510 New Haven , CT
United States
41° 18' 17.4168" N, 72° 55' 34.1868" W
Connecticut US

The Salt Marsh Advancement Zone Assessment for Connecticut report is the culmination of a statewide study of each of the 24 coastal municipalities in Connecticut. At the municipal scale, these 24 individual reports inform communities about future marsh advancement locations, current land use of those affected properties, and which parcels are critical to the persistence of the community’s salt marshes.

Restoring Tidal Flow and Enhancing Shoreline Resilience in the Nisqually River Delta


United States
47° 5' 0.6252" N, 122° 42' 35.0352" W

The Nisqually Delta Restoration Project is the largest tidal marsh restoration effort in the Pacific Northwest. Over four miles of dikes were removed in 2009 to return tidal flow to roughly 762 acres in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State to enhance wildlife habitat and the buffering capacity of marshes to sea level rise and increased flooding. Along with other local restoration efforts, 22 miles of the historic delta system have been restored, increasing salt marsh habitat in southern Puget Sound by over 50 percent.

City of Benicia Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan


94510 Benicia , CA
United States
38° 2' 57.714" N, 122° 9' 30.8808" W
California US

Benicia is a waterfront community in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city is home to a thriving arts community, beautiful weather and scenic vistas, a downtown full of charming boutiques and antique shops, and an industrial park and port that provide jobs to Benicia residents. However, all of this is threatened by the impacts of future climate change. Sea level rise, storm surge, and extreme temperatures are projected to increase significantly over the coming decades.