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. 

Founded in September 2010, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation is a group of regional and global development banks, government agencies and ministries, diverse non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector focused on sustainable water resources management — even as climate change alters the global hydrological cycle. Water provides coherence to climate change adaptation and mitigation, integrating energy, water, food production and agriculture, and ecosystems and the environment.

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Tribal Resilience Program - Senior GIS Analyst
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Engineer III

Native Village of Georgetown: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

This climate change vulnerability assessment documents climate change impacts and trends that have been observed along the Kuskokwim River. It was commissioned by the Georgetown Tribal Council to help inform their efforts to re-settle the Native Village of Georgetown, and to provide a starting place for working with neighboring communities to plan for climate change. Information was collected through a variety of methods, including interviews with elders and the collection of Traditional Knowledge, mapping and graphing of environmental data, review of published literature, and interviews with local scientists and natural resource managers.

The climate change vulnerability assessment revealed that subsistence resources are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change Some of the most vulnerable resources included berries, salmon, moose, and other game animals. Populations of these vital resources could become less reliable over time, but in addition, issues related to food storage, access, health, economics, and spiritual well-being are also at risk. Some of the issues identified in this assessment related to the resettlement of Georgetown in terms of infrastructure and community planning include the potential for increased contamination of water resources, increased risk of wildfire to structures, and increased risk of flooding. The Native Village of Georgetown has an opportunity to develop their village using approaches to building and siting that reduce their risks over time.