How Fishing Communities Are Responding to Climate Change


What happens when climate change affects the abundance and distribution of fish? 

What happens when climate change affects the abundance and distribution of fish? Fishers and fishing communities in the Northeast United States have adapted to those changes in three specific ways, according to new research published in Frontiers in Marine Science. 

Becca Selden, Wellesley College assistant professor of biological sciences, and a team of colleagues examined how fishing communities have responded to documented shifts in the location of fluke and of red and silver hake. The team found that fishers made three distinct changes to their approaches: following the fish to a new location; fishing for a different kind of fish; and bringing their catch to shore at another port of landing.

Selden began this research as a postdoctoral scholar at Rutgers University in New Jersey with Eva Papaioannou, now a scientist at GEOMAR. They combined quantitative data on fish availability from surveys conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and a unique geographic information system database from fishing trip records developed for this project. The researchers then interviewed fishers in 10 ports from North Carolina to Maine.

They explored three dominant strategies, and found that fishers throughout the Northeast were more likely to shift their target species. In interviews, the researchers learned that targeting a mix of species is a critical option for adaptation. Doing so can be complicated, however, because in many cases regulations and markets (or the lack of a market) constrain fishers’ ability to take advantage of a changing mix of species in fishing grounds. For example, in Point Pleasant, N.J., fishers can’t capitalize on an increase in dogfish in the region because of strict conservation measures that have been in place since 1988, when the species was declared over-fished, and the resulting absence of a market for those fish.

Read more at Wellesley College

Photo Credit: Anestiev via Pixabay