Realistic Fisheries Management Reforms Could Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change in Most Countries

Christopher M. Free , Tracey Mangin, Jorge García Molinos, Elena Ojea, Merrick Burden, Christopher Costello, Steven D. Gaines
Created: 9/16/2020 -


Although climate change is altering the productivity and distribution of marine fisheries, climate-adaptive fisheries management could mitigate many of the negative impacts on human society. We forecast global fisheries biomass, catch, and profits to 2100 under three climate scenarios (RCPs 4.5, 6.0, 8.5) and five levels of management reform to (1) determine the impact of climate change on national fisheries and (2) quantify the national-scale benefits of implementing climate-adaptive fisheries reforms. Management reforms accounting for shifting productivity and shifting distributions would yield higher catch and profits in the future relative to today for 60–65% of countries under the two least severe climate scenarios but for only 35% of countries under the most severe scenario. Furthermore, these management reforms would yield higher cumulative catch and profits than business-as-usual management for nearly all countries under the two least severe climate scenarios but would yield lower cumulative catch for 40% of countries under the most severe scenario. Fortunately, perfect fisheries management is not necessary to achieve these benefits: transboundary cooperation with 5-year intervals between adaptive interventions would result in comparable outcomes. However, the ability for realistic management reforms to offset the negative impacts of climate change is bounded by changes in underlying biological productivity. Although realistic reforms could generate higher catch and profits for 23–50% of countries experiencing reductions in productivity, the remaining countries would need to develop, expand, and reform aquaculture and other food production sectors to offset losses in capture fisheries. Still, climate-adaptive management is more profitable than business-as-usual management in all countries and we provide guidance on implementing–and achieving the benefits of–climate-adaptive fisheries reform along a gradient of scientific, management, and enforcement capacities.

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Document Type
Adaptation Phase
Sector Addressed
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Habitat/Biome Type