Kjipuktuk [Halifax] — The impacts of climate change on fisheries in Atlantic Canada and the Eastern Arctic are far reaching and grave, says a new report released today by Oceans North.

These regions are home to some of Canada’s most lucrative fisheries, as well as to coastal and Indigenous communities that depend on them. But the impacts of climate change are affecting the distribution, yield, and productivity of important species throughout the food chain, from lobster and capelin to tuna and swordfish. The climatic changes driving these patterns are expected to continue and will become more severe over the next century.

Some of the impacts include warmer water temperatures, which can lead to increased threat of deoxygenation, as well the northward migration of species and more invasive species. Earlier melting of sea ice can impact the timing of phy­toplankton blooms and in turn the spawning of com­mercially caught species. A decrease in the overall size of most species is also expected, along with impeded growth of shrimp, lobster and phytoplankton due to ocean acidification.

The 20-page summary report, entitled “Turning up the Heat: Managing the impacts of climate change on fisheries in Atlantic Canada and the Eastern Arctic,” also assesses whether climate change is being integrated into fisheries management decisions and how Canada can improve its response to this challenge.

“We know that climate change is affecting marine species and ecosystems in a multitude of ways, and that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future,” says Daniel Boyce, a researcher with the Ocean Frontier Institute at Dalhousie University and the report’s primary author. “This will create major disruption, both within ecosystems and for the people who rely on them for their livelihood.”

Studies indicate that more precautionary management can improve the status of troubled fisheries and offset the impacts of climate change. It is possible to compensate for negative effects and ensure proactive management where populations are increasing as a result of climate change. However, it is unclear to what extent climate change is currently being considered in the management of Canadian fisheries, and Canada does not have a long-term strategy.

The report provides a number of recommendations to improve fisheries management in the face of climate change. Advancing nature-based solutions to climate change in the marine environment can help reduce emissions and preserve sequestered “blue carbon.” Beyond collecting more data on climate impacts, Canada also needs to develop a national fisheries and climate framework that clearly identifies a process for how climate information can go from data to decision making. And in the immediate term, more transparent, adaptive and precautionary management can help make fisheries more resilient.

“The best insurance for the long-term health of fisheries is making smart, informed decisions now,” says Katie Schleit, Oceans North’s senior fisheries advisor. “We need to rebuild the fisheries that are struggling so that they are resilient to change; we need to avoid harming the fish populations that are still doing well; and we need to make sure that fisheries management takes climate change into account.”

A longer version of the report is available here.

For more information:

Katie Schleit
Senior Fisheries Advisor
[email protected]
(902) 488-4078

Susanna Fuller
VP Operations and Projects
[email protected]
(902) 483-5033

Oceans North supports marine conservation in partnership with Indigenous and coastal communities. Visit our website at www.oceansnorth.org and follow us on Twitter (@Oceans_North) or Facebook. 

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