EDFish

Selected tag(s): Climate change

Science shows that fish are moving, but can fishermen adapt to warming waters?

Europe is already witnessing first-hand shifts in commercially important species such as mackerel, herring and cod. The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) recently documented that 16 out of 23 key commercial species in European waters are shifting management areas, with eight of these species moving outside their historic zones.

The North East Atlantic is not immune to the shifts caused by climate change. These waters are home to some of Europe’s most sustainable fisheries as well as complex, highly developed scientific and governance systems. With these complex systems and challenges in mind, the European community is coming together to understand and find effective solutions to the problems being caused by climate change in their fisheries. To spur collaborative action, EDF released a new report outlining tools and approaches to address climate change impacts already being felt in the North East Atlantic region. Read More »

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Four lessons from European fisheries to consider in 2018

Almost a year ago, my colleague Erik Lindebo (now walking the corridors of power at the European Commission) wrote this prescient piece on the 'interesting times' facing Europe and its fisheries.

This seems like a good moment, as we start the New Year, to reflect on what we've learnt during these interesting times, and how those lessons will shape EDF’s work in 2018. Read More »

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Examining Climate Change Vulnerabilities of Marine Species in New England

Sea scallop. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, USGS

Sea scallop. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, USGS

By: Kristin M. Kleisner

Last week at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, a session entitled “Questioning our Changing Oceans,” sponsored by The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, The Environmental Defense Fund, The Island Institute, and The Nature Conservancy, sought to address some of the major issues related to climate change that the fishing industry has been experiencing. The panel included Jake Kritzer (EDF) as well as local scientists Andy Pershing (GMRI) and Jon Hare (NOAA), along with headliners Capt. Keith Coburn of the hit show ‘Deadliest Catch’, Capt. Buddy Guindon of the new breakout hit ‘Big Fish, Texas,’ and fishermen from as far as Western Australia.

The panel highlighted two NOAA studies recently published in PLOS ONE that highlight the vulnerability of marine fish and invertebrate species such as American lobster and scallops on the U.S. Northeast Shelf to the effects of climate change. Both studies illuminate important trends in species adaptation that will help inform future management decisions in the region. Read More »

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Why are cod struggling to recover in New England? Climate change is part of the answer

Pershing et al.

Heat map showing warming waters in the Gulf of Maine over time. Credit: Pershing et al.

Climate change is preventing cod from rebuilding in New England. Many scientists and fishermen believe this, and a study released last week in Science by Dr. Andrew Pershing from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and his co-authors provides new evidence to support this claim.

A brief history

Cod, an iconic species and a mainstay of New England fisheries, were overfished for decades, with catch levels peaking during the 1980s. In 2010, the fishery transitioned to the current quota-based management system under an Annual Catch Limit (ACL). Bringing cod under a fixed quota system should have ended overfishing and brought about recovery of the stock, but in recent years the biomass of Gulf of Maine cod has continued to decline, and was estimated in 2014 to be at just 3-4% of sustainable levels. Fishermen are catching fewer cod every year, and the quota is now so low that most fishermen actively try to avoid catching them. Yet despite these very strict catch limits, Gulf of Maine cod have not rebounded and the region’s fishermen are suffering devastating economic consequences. Read More »

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It’s Time to Take New England’s Groundfish Fishery Out of the Dark

Fishing boats in Chatham, MA. Photo: Tim Connor

Fishing boats in Chatham, MA. Photo: Tim Connor

What every fishing port in New England has long feared has now come true: the iconic cod fish is disappearing in our waters. If our shared goal is to rebuild a sustainable fishery for years to come, then we need to better understand what is happening to the fish stocks. This calls for better science, which has been the subject of discussion for years.

A key foundation of better science is better catch monitoring.  Inadequate catch data is the Achilles heel of the groundfish fishery in New England – particularly with cod – and the only way to improve this in a cost-effective way is through a comprehensive monitoring system that uses video technology. Read More »

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Closed areas can decrease uncertainty in effects of climate change on New England Fisheries

Gulf of Maine Map

Photo Credit: New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance

As fishermen around New England will be the first to point out, this summer, much like last year, has been abnormal. The ocean waters were warmer and cod, haddock, and flounders—the mainstay of our fishing industry for centuries—are increasingly elusive. There’s plenty of blame to go around, including decades of mismanagement and overfishing, inexact science and a mismatch in abundance of certain predatory species. Looking beyond these factors, the impact of climate change on fisheries is another factor driving fish abundance that’s worth a hard look.

The level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has now exceeded 400 parts per million, contributing to rising ocean temperatures. Some of the fastest increases in the last few decades have occurred in the Northwest Atlantic, and 2012 registered the largest annual increase in mean sea surface temperature for the Northwest Atlantic in the last 30 years.  

It is clear that climate change is disrupting New England’s fisheries right now; it is no longer an abstract, future scenario.

In the face of this evidence, fisheries managers need to factor in climate change alongside fishing effort and other elements when determining how to manage and rebuild fish stocks. The impacts of climate change can prevent fisheries management inactions from rebuilding fish populations, and conversely, excess fishing pressure can hinder the ability of a fish population to adapt to changes in climate. As I have written recently, a network of well-designed closed areas represents a promising management strategy to address the effect of climate change on fisheries. Read More »

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