Ecosystem-based fisheries management forestalls climate-driven collapse

Climate change is impacting fisheries worldwide with uncertain outcomes for food and nutritional security. While evidence of potential and realized climate change impacts in marine systems is widespread, implementation of climate-adaptive strategies for maritime societies and economies is less commonplace. This reflects the naturally dynamic nature of marine systems and the challenge of designing and implementing policies that can address impacts and risk from both rapid and chronic climate-driven change. Marine capture fisheries are especially vulnerable to climate change impacts, as marine organisms are often sensitive to small shifts in ocean temperature, circulation, and chemistry.

Using management strategy evaluations for key US fisheries in the eastern Bering Sea, K. K. Holsman and colleaguesfound that Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) measures forestall future declines under climate change over non-EBFM approaches. Yet, benefits are species-specific and decrease markedly after 2050. Under high-baseline carbon emission scenarios (RCP 8.5), end-of-century (2075–2100) pollock and Pacific cod fisheries collapse in >70% and >35% of all simulations, respectively. 

Their analysis suggests that 2.1–2.3 °C (modeled summer bottom temperature) is a tipping point of rapid decline in gadid biomass and catch. Multiyear stanzas above 2.1 °C become commonplace in projections from ~2030 onward, with higher agreement under RCP 8.5 than simulations with moderate carbon mitigation (i.e., RCP 4.5). They found that EBFM ameliorates climate change impacts on fisheries in the near-term, but long-term EBFM benefits are limited by the magnitude of anticipated change.

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