Step 4: Emerging Adaptation Options

While there many examples of climate-informed fisheries management in action, several more options to advance adaptation in the fisheries sector exist that are either not yet represented or are only partially addressed by the examples from our survey. Managers will need to continuously evaluate responses of fish populations to changing environmental conditions, test adaptation options and their outcomes, and share information regarding successful adaptation strategies with other fishery managers. Additional climate-informed actions that can be taken to address existing and projected management challenges posed by changing climatic conditions include:

  • Create flexible multi-species permitting, licensing, and management plans. As species’ ranges shifts due to warming temperatures, enabling flexibility in terms of when, where, what, and how much is harvested will become increasingly important to sustain fishing livelihoods. These concerns need to be balanced with the sustainability of fish populations overall.
  • Adjust quotas to help sustain stocks (e.g., reduce fishing pressure on vulnerable stocks). Evaluating the climatic and non-climatic factors that contribute to the vulnerability of fish stocks may help managers adjust harvest allocations. Climate change will require managers to move beyond using the maximum sustainable yield of target species for allocating quotas and instead consider ecosystem-based approaches to reducing vulnerability.
  • Temporarily close fisheries, if necessary. Given the uncertainty of climate change and the risks associated with extreme events that may collapse entire fisheries, managers can adjust status quo policies by supporting rapid response measures to reduce stress on vulnerable stocks, including temporary closures.
  • Evaluate potential and establish procedures for new commercial and recreational fisheries (e.g., establishment of catch limits, new permitting procedures). As species migrate to more climatically suitable habitat, managers will need to prepare for the closure of existing fisheries as well as the emergence of new fisheries. This may require full-scale changes in fishing gear for different species, limiting allocations while emerging stocks establish themselves, and restrictions on recreational fishing calendars.
  • Create international cooperative fisheries agreements. Climate change will have multilateral effects and will not be confined by political or social boundaries (Gregg et al. 2012). Establishing climate-informed cooperative agreements between countries will create shared fisheries management goals and objectives to help achieve long-term viability.
  • Develop resistant and resilient seed/broodstock for shellfish and finfish hatcheries. Some species and habitats may be at risk of complete destruction from climate change impacts. Developing resistant and resilient strains of seed and broodstock can determine if and how different species such as coral will be viable under future conditions.
  • Diversify fisheries and/or livelihoods. In some areas, climate-induced effects on fisheries may threaten entire communities’ livelihoods. Diversifying either the fish stocks targeted and/or the sector in which fishermen operate (e.g., ecotourism) may be prudent but may require capital investments (e.g., funding, training).
  • Promote fishing opportunities for non-native and invasive species. The direct removal of problematic non-native and invasive species may help alleviate stress on species and habitats. Lionfish that have invaded Atlantic and Caribbean waters are voracious predators of commercially important species such as snapper and grouper. Lionfish are now promoted as a viable food source and are available at restaurants and supermarkets (National Geographic 2016).
  • Restore degraded freshwater habitat. Managers need to examine the land-sea connection to understand how changes in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems affect fisheries.