How regional fishery bodies have responded to climate change

Marcus Howard1, Prof Gretta Pecl1, Jonathan Sumby1

11Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


This is the first global survey of Regional Fishery Bodies (RFB) responses thus far to the current and predicted future effects of climate change. Fisheries management is highly dependent on the regularity in space and time, within ecological boundaries, of targeted fish populations. Oceanic climate-driven changes are leading to continuing deviation from this regularity. Fish and other species are shifting into new jurisdictions averaging 70km per decade, yet local, national, regional, and international fisheries are generally underprepared for these shifts. Warming throughout the oceans is not uniform, and these changes in distributions of species are fastest in areas warming most rapidly- ocean warming ‘hotspots’. We assessed the annual reports of 17 RFB’s active in ocean hotspot regions over the period 2002 – 2016, looking for the phrase ‘climate change’ and the context in which the phrase was used. Three levels of institutional engagement were developed: Awareness of climate change; Learning about climate change; and then any Action taken by the RFB. Of the RFB examined, 88% of institutions demonstrated awareness of climate change; 82% demonstrated learning about climate change; while only 41% demonstrated some form of action, but these were mainly procedural and administrative. Over the last 14 years, the gap between ‘awareness’ and ‘action’ was actually growing, i.e. awareness was increasing steadily and yet action remain stagnant. Only two of the RFB examined made explicit statements about incorporating climate change into future fishing management plans. The inference is that most RFB are largely practising business-as-usual, with the implication that fish populations under industrial fishing will continue to experience maximal fishing effort as the sea around them alters.


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