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Third International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans

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The Third International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans was held 23-27 March  2015 in Santos City Brazil in coordination with the Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo. AFSC scientists Anne Hollowed, Paul Spencer, Carey McGilliard, Kirstin Holsman, Ivonne Ortiz, and Alan Haynie participated in the symposium.

The symposium provided opportunities for the international science community to bring together the latest information, understanding, and assessment of the impacts of climate change on our oceans. Twelve sessions were convened covering different but interconnected themes, from physical processes and their interaction with ecosystem dynamics to resource provision and ocean governance. The latest developments in predicting changes in biodiversity, phenology, fisheries, and ecosystems, as well as changes in the physical systems that sustains these, informed discussions on the risks and opportunities that climate change will bring to coastal communities and to society at large. The symposium also highlighted knowledge gaps to stimulate the development of the new generation of science of climate change impacts on our oceans. In addition, several workshops were conducted prior to the symposium.

Alan Haynie co-convened the workshop Moving Towards Climate-Ready Fishery Systems: Regional comparisons of climate adaptation in marine fisheries. (The summary here of the workshop is a slightly modified version of the workshop abstract available on the conference website. ) The impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems and fish populations are being increasingly recognized and are expected to increase as warming trends, extreme warm events, and ocean acidification become more pronounced. While these impacts have been documented and compared across regions, much less attention has been devoted to understanding how fisheries—particularly the fishing industry and the management and governance systems that regulate harvesting—are responding to these changes. By comparing how responses differ between ecosystems and governance regimes, the workshop aimed to develop a typology of approaches that can be employed at multiple decision-making scales to enhance resilience to climate variability and change.

This workshop brought together scientists and practitioners from different regions of the world to document and compare how marine fisheries are responding to the impacts of climate change. The workshop convenors were especially interested in comparing the response of fisheries in the northwest Atlantic, Norwegian-Barents Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Australia—four regions that have experienced rapid environmental changes but have very different fisheries and fishery management systems. Within each region, presenters outlined the major climate impacts on fisheries and the responses to these impacts at different scales (e.g., temporal, spatial, and social/institutional). The rationale behind selection of specific approaches and tools for climate adaptation were discussed in the context of constraints and opportunities that exist within ecological, social, and governance systems of different regions. Specific objectives of the workshop included:

  1. identifying climate adaptation measures that are being pursued in marine fisheries,
  2. assessing conditions that constrain or facilitate adaptive actions, and
  3. comparing how adaptation responses and options vary across ecosystems, fisheries, and management regimes.

The workshop included a combination of invited talks which provided an overview of climate impacts, adaptation measures, and the fisheries context in each region and breakout groups to explore similarities and differences among regions in adaptation approaches for fisheries. One working group session is developing a framework for comparative analysis of climate adaptation initiatives in marine fisheries across regions and we are populating elements of this framework with information from each region. These results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Anne Hollowed and Alistair Hobday (CSIRO, Australia) co-convened theme session S10 Forecasting climate change impacts on fish populations and fisheries. Scientists involved with this theme session presented papers that focused on identifying the mechanisms underlying fish and fisheries responses to changing environmental conditions and projections of the impact of climate change on the productivity and distribution of important marine species that sustain global or regional fisheries. Several presenters developed scenarios based on fish responses to changes in the climate and bio-physical oceanographic conditions. These scenarios also included changes in biogeochemical processes (effects of ocean acidification), shifts in prey availability and density, or changes in predators of ecologically important fish species. The linkages were made by statistical and mechanistic approaches using a range of models including mass-balance, sized-based, individual-based and end-to-end models. Additional topics of interest include responses of fisheries management systems and the interaction between climate and harvest impacts on fish populations. The Plenary speaker was Patrick Lehodey (Space Oceanography Division, CLS, France) and invited speakers were V. Kiripa (CMFRI, India) and Elvira Poloczanska (CSIRO, Australia).

The key findings from this session were

  1. The research community is recognizing the opportunity to learn from extreme events and regional comparisons.
  2. Fisher behavior and fish may not follow bio-climatic windows.
  3. Looking backwards to look forward reveals that there are multiple explanations for observed shifts in growth.
  4. There is a need to improve our understanding of mechanisms underlying fish and fishers responses to climate change.
  5. Mitigating climate change through adoption of sustainable management may be difficult to employ in some countries. Issues of food security and alternative employment issues must be addressed. Engagement between fisheries scientists and fish-dependent communities is a potential way forward.
  6. Regional models are needed to resolve differences in observed responses of fish and fishers to climate and projected directions of change derived from global climate models.
  7. Two approaches were apparent – forward-looking short-term projections (e.g. stock assessment for the next year, seasonal forecasting); and longer-term (multi-decadal) projections to inform long-term strategies for managing fish and fisheries, and to estimate the implications for food security.  The combination of these two approaches should help to identify strategies for adaptation to climate impacts on marine resources.
  8. Valuing the adaptation benefit – would be an emerging activity – and useful for fishers and managers and policy makers.



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