The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines resilience as a “system’s capacity to anticipate and reduce, cope with, and respond to and recover from external disruptions.“ To operationalize resilience, managers should begin by evaluating fisheries holistically as social-ecological systems, recognizing climate resilience attributes in ecological, socio-economic and governance dimensions. Linking our climate science directly to Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management (EBFM) provides us with the tools to build healthy fish stocks and fishing communities in a changing future. Building resiliency requires an understanding of ecosystem structure and function and of human impact on the changing ecosystem. We must ensure that fishing activity will not undermine ecosystem health. Only then we can ask, “Are our fisheries flexible and adaptable enough to operate in the new climate paradigm?”
Connectivity–within populations, between habitats and through species interactions–is an essential attribute of ecosystem resilience. Through food web connections, an ecosystem’s energy cycle is maintained. Forage species constitute a vital link in the marine food web by consuming plankton and other small marine organisms and transferring this energy up the food chain to top predators. Strategies for monitoring and conserving an ecosystem’s forage complex as a whole, while meeting the conservation and management needs of each species, would serve to fortify trophic pathways that are vital to sustaining fisheries in the face of climate change. Planning for a resilient fisheries future depends on setting aspirational goals and objectives for the ecosystem and then taking management steps to ensure the health of the resource first. Fishery managers must operationalize EBFM to tackle the challenges of building resilient fisheries in a changing climate. To do that, we need to be more forthright about how ocean food webs and habitats are changing and how human actions impact the ecosystem, and then overtly consider these impacts within our conservation and management strategies.
Advance fisheries management approaches and policies that address the impacts of changing ocean conditions and build resilient marine ecosystems for the communities that depend on them.
Develop and support governance approaches that proactively address changes in species distribution and abundance.
Identify solutions to address climate-related impacts to habitats and ecosystem productivity.
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A RESPITE FOR MAKO
In November, after more than a decade of warning about the vulnerability and decline of North Atlantic shortfin mako shark, international managers banned the retention of all shortfin mako sharks for two years. International scientists have advised that a moratorium is the most immediate step we can take to reverse the decline and rebuild the population, but it will still take more than five decades to fully recover this deeply depleted population.
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