NY Times article calls out slow response of fisheries regulators to climate change

Published on
January 10, 2017

Warming waters due to climate change are causing many marine species to abandon their traditional habitats and decamp to more amenable surroundings.

In the United States, populations of species such as black sea bass and American lobster have moved hundreds of miles north along the coastline. But regulatory bodies governing commercial fishing, including the federal government and regional fisheries councils, have been slow to react to the rapid ecological changes taking place due to climate change, according to an article in The New York Times.

The Times cites studies showing that two-thirds of marine species in the Northeast United States have shifted or extended their range as a result of ocean warming. Yet fishing regulations, which set quotas that are often based on where fish have historically been most abundant, haven’t kept up with those geographical changes, the Times reported.

Several new measures are being considered as a way to bring regulatory bodies – and the science upon which they base their decisions – up to speed, including the development of methods to incorporate temperature data and species movement data into population surveys. Also under consideration is wider adoption of ecosystem-based management, which takes a more holistic view of a species’ role in its ecosystem, assigning fishing quotas based on a category of marine species, such as groundfish, rather than a specific fish.

Additionally, the Times reported that state and federal fishery managers are considering adding more representation from states with new fisheries resulting from mass species migration caused by climate change.

Richard J. Seagraves, a senior scientist for the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, told the newspaper the council had conducted series of surveys distributed and town hall-style meetings held by the council that showed the issue of primary concern to both fishermen and their regulators.

“The most pressing concern expressed by all parties was the failure to address ecosystem considerations, like a changing climate and the physical effects on fish stocks,” Seagraves said.

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