Step 1: Climate Impacts on Fisheries in the United States and Territories

From rising air and sea temperatures to acidic and hypoxic ocean and coastal waters, climate change is affecting marine and coastal ecosystems in the United States. The compounding effects of climatic stressors and other non-climate impacts, such as overfishing, habitat degradation, and pollution, have significant ramifications for commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries. These interlinked issues are threatening fish species, critical nursery and breeding habitats (e.g., estuaries, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds), and the sustainability and management of fisheries as a whole. Due to historical overfishing, many fish stocks are already diminished with reduced diversity, age, and size, making these populations more vulnerable to changes in their environments (Brander et al. 2007). Fisheries managers will need to consider strategies to respond to changing species ranges, loss of essential fish habitat, and declines in production, abundance, and recruitment.

This literature review examines the major impacts climate change is likely to have on marine and coastal fisheries in the United States. These fisheries include both wild capture and farmed (aquaculture), and provide important contributions to the U.S. economy.

In 2014, commercial fisheries landings totaled 9.5 billion pounds, valued at $5.4 billion in the United States (NOAA 2012). A survey of U.S. saltwater anglers found that in 2011 the marine recreational fishing industry generated over $23 billion in sales on fishing trips and equipment, supporting over 360,000 jobs and contributing $29 billion to gross domestic product (Lovell et al. 2013). In 2012, the estimated value of marine aquaculture production was $1.4 billion, with shellfish (e.g., oysters, clams, mussels) accounting for the majority of farmed marine species (NOAA 2015a). Climate change, in addition to other regional pressures, is having and will continue to have cascading effects on all aspects of fisheries, including fish production, essential fish habitats, fishing-dependent communities, and resource managers (hereafter collectively referred to as “fisheries”).

Articles were selected based on the most current and well-cited academic and government literature on climate change and ocean acidification impacts on U.S. fisheries, as well as recommendations from fisheries scientists and managers. Drawing on findings from the literature review, this section presents an overview of the major climatic stressors that are likely to impact U.S. marine fisheries, including observed and projected changes, potential effects on fisheries, and additional non-climatic factors that may compound climate impacts.

Climate Change Impacts: