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Climate Change in Fisheries Brings Stakeholders Together in D.C.

May 28, 2014
Spring 2014

Climate change continues to remain the focus of various regional and national workshops, meetings, and conferences. Twice within the first few months of 2014, scientists, federal and state agency representatives, and other stakeholders have gathered in Washington, DC to mobilize efforts to prepare for and respond to climate change in fisheries management.

Building Climate Solutions

In January, over 1,000 scientists, engineers, resource managers, federal and state agency representatives, and other stakeholders from across the country attended the 14th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment: Building Climate Solutions in Washington, DC.

The 3-day conference included over 30 topic-specific tracks including the Managing Marine Fisheries in a Changing Climate panel led by NOAA Fisheries. These sessions featured presentations on the implications of climate change on US fisheries management. Jason Link, Senior Scientist for Ecosystem Management at NOAA Fisheries, explained how the current federal process for marine resource management will be adapted to address changes linked to climate variability such as shifts in ecosystem productivity and fishing behavior. In his presentation, GMRI Chief Scientist Andy Pershing added a regional perspective focused on the Gulf of Maine where ocean warming is occurring faster than 99.8% of other points in the global ocean. For an international perspective, Gretta Pecl of the University of Tasmania, provided insights from southeast Australia, where climate change has triggered the poleward migration of several marine organisms including sea urchins and 50% of the regions intertidal species.

The discussion that followed included panelists Heather Deese of the Island Institute; Bill Tweit, chair of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Ecosystem Committee; Sonke Mastrup of the California Fish and Game Commission; and Rebecca Lent of the Marine Mammal Commission. During the working session that followed, attendees formed breakout groups aimed at identifying tools, actions, and collaborations to develop new approaches or test ongoing efforts in adapting to climate change in fisheries.

East Coast Climate Change and Fisheries Governance Workshop

In March, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council hosted a 3-day East Coast Climate Change and Fisheries Governance workshop. The event was facilitated by the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum, and was specifically focused on identifying the implications of climate change on the current fisheries management system as well evaluating potential solutions.

The workshop opened with a series of presentations on the ecological, socio-cultural, and economic impacts of climate change on commercial fisheries on the East Coast. Another presentation focused on the difference between governance (regulatory structure, such as the Magnuson-Stevens Act and regional councils) and management (decisions made within the governance structure), provoking participants to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of both the federal council system and the state-focused Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission for addressing challenges posed by climate change, such as range shifts in species.

Participants included Council members and staff from the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic Fishery Management councils as well as members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, fishery managers, scientists, and NOAA staff from both regions.