Americans love seafood, from Maine lobster to Maryland crabs and Atlantic salmon. Fish is a staple of the American diet and a critical element of the U.S. economy. As rising temperatures affect the productivity and abundance of fish stocks, marine biologists are conducting vulnerability assessments to learn more about how fish react to warming ocean waters.

ECS scientists are working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Science and Technology to conduct research that sheds light on the effects of climate change on our oceans, fish, and the communities that rely on commercial fishing for their economic survival.

Fish and the economy

A shift is taking place in the Earth’s oceans: as temperatures rise, fish are migrating to new locations more favorable to their survival. The effect on the commercial fishing industry has been significant, introducing new complexities in a critical economic market. According to the latest Fisheries Economics in the United States report, fisheries support 1.7 million jobs in the United States, and generate more than $200 billion in sales for the national economy.

Changes in ocean conditions are not only causing shifts in geographic distribution (the places where fish live in the ocean); they are impacting the abundance and productivity of fish populations. These geographic shifts and fluctuations in abundance cause complications for commercial fishermen, affecting where, how, and when they fish.

Understanding patterns

ECS scientists are working with NOAA Fisheries to track geographic distribution and conduct assessments to better understand changes in climate and fish stocks. The goal is to make more informed fisheries management decisions in order to continue to sustainably manage our fishery resources in a changing climate.

When fish change locations, new decisions must be made to effectively manage fisheries and promote sustainable fishing across the country. NOAA Fisheries provides oversight and guidance for a highly regulated field: there are strict rules about how commercial fishermen carry out their work. Law enforcement on the seas prevents overfishing and illegal interaction with protected species.

Better decisions

ECS marine biologists play an important role in the development of research methodologies, and the implementation of strategies for a proactive approach to dealing with climate change. Together, NOAA Fisheries and ECS scientists continue to monitor conditions in the ocean, making recommendations for how to better protect our planet’s marine life. By incorporating the impacts of climate change into fisheries management decisions, scientists help to limit the number of negative outcomes and improve the sustainable management of the fisheries resources critical to our food supply and economy.

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