Climate vulnerabilities and adaptation pathways for Northeast U.S. fishing communities
Marine ecosystems, fish populations, and fisheries that depend on them are all being affected by climate change. In the Northeast U. S., waters have warmed rapidly, marine heatwaves have become more common, and seasonality is changing. These physical changes are affecting fish populations, resulting in declines in some traditionally-important species and the emergence of species from the south. As the species impacts become widely apparent, more complex questions are arising: how will fisheries and fishing communities be affected, and how can they adapt in ways that create new opportunities and ensure the persistence of viable, sustainable fisheries in their communities in the future?
This project will advance the science needed to support adaptation planning by fishing communities in the context of climate-related species changes. With funding from the CSI/COCA/Sustainable Fisheries in a Changing Climate Program: Supporting Resilient Fishing Communities in the Northeast Region, the project will develop community-specific information about vulnerabilities, adaptation strategies, and adaptation pathways. To our knowledge, this project will be the first to apply the adaptation pathways framework—an approach that elucidates multiple adaptation choices, timeframes, and cross-scale dependencies that shape adaptation—to marine fisheries in the U. S. The project will leverage three previously-funded COCA projects to update distribution projections for 56 species and vulnerability information for 75 communities, provide economic assessments of adaptation strategies for 25 communities, and develop adaptation pathways and associated engagement processes for four focal communities. An interactive website will organize, serve, and facilitate long-term user access to data and information on species changes, economic impacts, adaptation benefits, and adaptation pathways under multiple climate and adaptation scenarios. Finally, outreach associated with this project will (1) extend the use of these resources to new fishing communities through training of on-the-ground partners across the region and (2) convey important information to fishery management bodies. Ultimately, the project will serve as a model that can be used by fishing communities facing climate adaptation challenges in other regions of the U.S. and world.
This project contributes to the NOAA Climate Program Office’s goal of advancing scientific information to enable effective decisions that support ecosystem, community, and economic resilience. It will integrate information across the complex system in which fisheries operate— from physics and ecosystems to economies and communities—to produce vulnerability information, develop adaptation pathways, and work with local communities to apply that information to their adaptation planning processes. In addition, the project addresses all five objectives requested by the COCA/CSI program: (1) assess socio-economic risks and vulnerabilities of fishing communities to climate-related variability and change, (2) work with fishing communities to scope potential adaptation options and outline the costs of inaction, (3) improve existing or develop new methodologies to connect fishing communities with relevant scientific information on changing ocean conditions, (4) communicate risks of changing ocean conditions to inform effective planning and management, and (5) develop tools, guidance, and/or trainings to build capacity for responding to the impacts of changing oceans. While meeting NOAA’s strategic objectives, this project will provide tangible information for Northeast U. S. fishing communities as they prepare to adapt to the impacts of climate change.