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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment Program

Workshop on Forecasting Climate Impacts on Future Production of Commercially Exploited Fish and Shellfish

The workshop “Forecasting Climate Impacts on Future Production of Commercially Exploited Fish” was held in Seattle on 19-20 July 2007. The workshop was sponsored by the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) and the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB). The workshop was a follow-up to a PICES Fishery Science Committee (FIS) sponsored workshop held in October 2006 at the PICES XV Annual Meeting in Yokohama, Japan on "Linking Climate to Trends in Productivity of Key Commercial Species in the Sub-arctic Pacific.”

Participants of the workshop represented a significant number of the most knowledgeable people who are researching the impacts of climate on fisheries. Participants included an interdisciplinary team of 38 scientists from six countries. Several scientists had strong links to the PICES organization including members from the Physical Oceanography & Climate (POC), Biological Oceanography (BIO), and FIS committees, as well as members of the PICES interim Climate Forcing and Marine Ecosystem (CFAME) task team.

The goal of this workshop was to develop a coordinated international effort to provide quantitative estimates of the impacts of climate change on major fish populations. Members from each nation discussed this goal and agreed that they would be interested in participating in this effort. For the interim purposes of this report we refer to the project as the PICES Panel on Fisheries and Climate Change (PPFCC). Official establishment of this panel requires formal approval at some future PICES meeting.

Participants discussed how PPFCC differs from other national or international research programs focused on climate change impacts. PPFCC complements several ongoing research activities within the PICES region and the sub-arctic as a whole. Several features of the program make it unique. First, PPFCC plans to provide quantitative estimates of the impacts of climate change on fisheries in the North Pacific. Second, the program is a coordinated interdisciplinary and multinational effort that will involve the application of similar methods and forecasting approaches to provide an opportunity to compare responses of fish across their range. Third, PPFCC focuses on the response of major commercial fish and shellfish species, and not the ecosystem response.

Participants will develop forecasting tools that allow the inclusion of environmental impacts on fish and shellfish production, distribution and growth. PPFCC proposes to utilize selected scenarios from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) effort to develop scenarios for regional oceanographic changes that will then be linked to changes in ocean forcing on upper trophic level species (see discussion below). PPFCC builds on the history of research regarding mechanisms underlying production that set the stage for the development of quantitative climate change impacts on fisheries scenarios.

Participants at the workshop not only recognized the importance of ocean and climate effects on recruitment, they also accepted the concept of decadal-scale variation. This is a very important advancement and a key result of the workshop.

Links to Other Programs

PPFCC provides a critical link to other national and international research programs that are expected to be active in the PICES region in the next decade. PPFCC builds on the work of the IPCC that will provide the climate change scenarios needed for modeling impacts on fisheries. PPFCC may employ coupled bio-physical modeling approaches that are being developed through national programs such as the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST), the U.S. GLOBEC Northeast Pacific program (NEP), and the U.S. North Pacific Climate Regimes and Ecosystem Productivity (NPCREP) program as well as international programs such as the GLOBEC international studies of marginal seas.

PPFCC scientists will coordinate with on-going research on upper trophic level response to environmental forcing, which is occurring in most national research institutions. In particular, the PPFCC program will provide a first order forecast for use in developing more complex process-oriented programs that seek to forecast the response of the whole ecosystem such as the NPRB Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Program (BSIERP) and NOAA’s Loss of Sea Ice (LOSI) program. PPFCC also provides a regional forecasting approach that can be used to guide comparative research across the northern hemisphere which is sponsored by the Ecosystem Study of Sub-arctic and Adjacent Seas (ESSAS), and the U.S. Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization (CAMEO) program. The goals of this program are consistent with the climate forecasting element of the proposed PICES FUTURE research program and the U.S. Fisheries and the Environment (FATE) program.

Participants expect that the results of the PPFCC-coordinated research effort will be utilized by a broad spectrum of individuals outside of the research community. We anticipate that stakeholders who rely on fish and shellfish resources will utilize our results to anticipate changes that would influence their businesses and communities. Fisheries managers will utilize the forecasts to evaluate whether actions are needed to sustain fisheries in their regions. Conservation groups will be interested to better understand the regional and species-specific risks and challenges that climate change poses for species of interest.

Several participants noted that the forecasts developed through this effort will help to identify research gaps that could be the focus of interdisciplinary research programs involving field work. Just as recognition of regime shifts was used to promote the development of large national and international interdisciplinary research programs, participants thought that the international research effort to investigate the impacts of climate change on marine fish populations may promote the expansion of national and international research programs on climate change and marine ecosystems.

The workshop provided a forum for discussion of four components needed to complete the forecasts in a timely and coordinated fashion including: IPCC scenarios, predictions of oceanographic impacts, modeling approaches, and scenarios for natural resource use and enhancement. The group discussed the structure for future activities. The group reviewed the list of target species for the PPFCC effort. After careful consideration, 23 species were selected for further consideration. Participants also reviewed the regional partitions proposed in October 2006. Participants agreed to project implications of climate change at 10-year and 30-year time horizons.

By Anne Hollowed

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