Assessing socio-economic impacts and adaptation opportunities for fishing communities in the Northeast U. S. facing climate-driven species distribution shifts

Dr. Katherine Mills1, Dr.  Michael Alexander2, Mr. Andrew Allyn1, Dr.  Lisa Colburn3, Dr. Steve Eayrs1, Dr. Bradley Franklin1, Dr. Troy Hartley4, Ms. Mary Hudson1, Mr. Brian Kennedy1, Ms. Sabrina Kerin1, Mr. Jonathan Labaree1, Dr.  Andrew Pershing1, Dr.  James Scott2, Dr. Jenny Sun5

1Gulf Of Maine Research Institute, Portland, United States, 2NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, United States, 3NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Narragansett, United States, 4Virginia Sea Grant College, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, United States, 5National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung, Taiwan

Ocean waters off the Northeast U. S. have warmed rapidly in recent years, and climate models project this warming to continue.  Associated changes in species distributions and productivity are already affecting fishing communities, as they face declines in traditionally-fished species and the appearance of emerging species.  Local impacts of these changes depend on the nature and rate of ecosystem change, patterns of dependence on marine resources, and adaptation capacity and choices.  We use temperature projections to drive 56 species models to evaluate social-ecological vulnerabilities to climate-related species changes at a port scale.  This assessment provides insights into key risks posed to 75 fishing communities from Maine to Virginia.  We then integrate projected species changes into economic models of the fishing sector and regional economy.  Results indicate a high degree of variability in impacts to profits, jobs, and fleet composition posed by shifting species.  We also consider a suite of adaptation scenarios within the economic models to assess the extent to which different adaptation strategies would buffer these impacts and create new opportunities for fisheries in the community. In all ports examined, we find substantial benefits from adaptation, including the potential for future fisheries to be even more profitable than those of today.  However, interviews with fishermen and municipal officials highlight factors that facilitate and constrain implementation of specific adaptation approaches. Ultimately, barriers that currently limit certain adaptation responses will need to be cleared to realize the full benefits of adaptation and achieve social, economic, and cultural objectives.


Dr. Katherine Mills is a research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine. She earned her Ph.D. in Natural Resources at Cornell University. As a quantitative fisheries ecologist, Kathy studies (1) how physical and ecosystem conditions are changing; (2) how these changes affect fish populations, biological communities, and marine fisheries; and (3) how fisheries and fishing communities can effectively respond. Much of her work is interdisciplinary, seeking to understand and inform management of fisheries as coupled social-ecological systems. This research integrates climate, ecological, social and economic information to link changes in the ecosystem to societal outcomes. Climate adaptation within marine fisheries has become a major recent focus, with emphases on assessing climate adaptation strategies and providing new forms of information to support adaptation planning by fishery participants, fishing communities and fishery managers.

Species on the Move

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The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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