Climate Change & Fisheries


We are already beginning to witness the different ways that climate change is reshaping ecosystems worldwide. Our oceans are no exception, and even small changes in acidity levels and sea surface temperatures are having a noticeable effect on the fisheries that span our oceans. In some fisheries, productivity is decreasing, and in others, fish stocks are responding to change by migrating to new areas that provide the ecological conditions they require for survival. Given that fisheries are a critical component of the blue economy, providing food security and livelihood benefits to billions of people around the world, SFG is focused on developing adaptvie management solutions that will help make them more resilient to the effects of climate change, now and in the future. 

Forecasting the Future of Global Fisheries under Climate Change

As our oceans continue to warm in the years to come, we expect that there will be significant changes in the productivity of global fisheries, as well as major shifts in species’ current geographic ranges. Both of these climate change impacts will have serious implications for the stability and well-being of communities around the world that rely on the presence of healthy and stable fish stocks for their livelihoods and food supply. In collaboration with researchers from Hokkaido University, the Environmental Defense Fund, and National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, we are investigating the potential for adaptive fisheries management techniques to address the anticipated consequences of changes in species productivity and distribution due to climate change. We have projected future biomass, harvest, and profits for 915 single- and mixed-species stocks across the globe under a range of climate projections and management scenarios, which range from no adaptation to full adaptation to anticipated range shifts and changes in productivity. The results of our study suggest that fully adaptive management can result in greater global biomass, harvest, and profit compared to what is achieved today under a moderate warming scenario.  Importantly, we find that benefits in all three areas are only possible when management addresses both productivity changes and range shifts due to climate change, and when temperatures do not rise by more than 2 degrees celsius. This highlights the important role of greenhouse gas mitigation in addition to improved management for the future of fisheries. 


New Policy Solutions for Transboundary Fish Stocks

Climate change is driving fish species into new ranges that cross national boundaries. This poses serious problems for fishery management, which has traditionally been conducted at the national level. We are working to understand how fisheries management regimes will perform under climate change, and what types of policy solutions might be needed.