Sector level adaptation: Ecosystems, Fisheries and Aquaculture

Climate change impacts on ecosystems are diverse and cumulative. Managing for ecological resilience and adaptation to climate change will require integrative approaches that will also benefit ecological productivity and fisheries. Climate change impacts in the fisheries sector primarily demands management responses to protect or enhance existing fisheries and stocks. However, First Nations fisheries may have fewer options for adaptation, especially given the coast-wide dependence on marine resources for food security and cultural uses [25,67,92]. In these cases, traditional ecological knowledge may offer examples of adaptive strategies to enhance food security and thus community resilience in these systems. As an example, recent research on clam garden mariculture has illuminated the historical importance of First Nations aquaculture on this coast [126,127]. First Nations communities on the BC coast have a long and diverse history of traditional food production practices; learning from these techniques may offer adaptive strategies for communities now and in the future.

Proactive management options aim to increase the resilience of a fishery, fishers, or ecosystem, based on predicting the effects of change. In some cases, reactive management approaches may be suitable or successful given that predictive modeling of future environmental conditions and associated fisheries may be uncertain [122,128,129]. Proactive management for supporting fishery-based economies and coastal communities can support the resilience of fishers and the communities that depend upon fishing. As fish distributions and abundances shift with climate change, fisheries will have to adjust by changing target species, fishing areas, fisheries openings, and processing locations [122,130].

Proactive management approaches for supporting fisheries and ecosystem health

1. Scenario planning to identify management options despite uncertainty. These can be simplistic or highly technical. 
Examples: Descriptive scenarios to identify options for management to move fisheries or add value to fishery products; simulation modeling.

2. Marine reserves/Marine protected areas: Support functional diversity of an area or ecosystem. 
Examples: Protect current and future habitats of protected species, protect core areas of stock distribution through time by modifying reserve boundaries, manage dynamic reserves based on environmental conditions over time, e.g. dynamic ocean management (DOM).

3. Management that promotes adaptive capacity of fish species and populations. Aim to improve or maintain genetic diversity of fish species and populations by reducing stressors, protecting populations with high genetic diversity, or highly tolerant populations (e.g. high temperature tolerance). Avoid targeting populations at the edges of species distribution. 
Examples: Area based fishing closures, increase research on genetic diversity and plasticity of populations.

4. Protect fish population age structure, especially old females to increase population resilience to changing conditions. 
Examples: Increase marine protected areas, use maximum size limits, modify fishing gear to prevent capturing large fish, increase post-release survival, use area-based or temporal fishing closures to limit catching large individuals.

Examples of protection-related adaptation actions include:

  • Reducing fisheries harvest rates;
  • Increasing habitat protection and ecosystem restoration; and
  • Improving regulations to manage fisheries and freshwater rearing systems, which are especially important for salmon species as marine ecosystems [25].

Other sectoral responses may include increasing hatchery production and aquaculture development, although these changes have other ancillary tradeoffs that may not contribute to overall ecosystem health.

Adaptive management techniques for fishers and the fisheries sector include:

  • Diversifying fisheries regulations and harvest licenses before available species change, to allow fisheries and fishers to target new species and exotics as current targeted species decline in abundance or shift northwards [25,122,128].
    Examples: Rights-based fisheries management; community based quota systems.
  • Insure fishers to provide stability to fishers in low income years and decrease overfishing. 
    Example: Analogous to crop insurance. Premium-based regional or federal insurance system to support fishery-based communities.
  • Potentially relocate fisheries infrastructure as major fishing grounds change locations [122].
  • Increase flexibility in the processing and supply chain for fisheries to reduce impacts to local fishing economies when fisheries change rapidly.

Reactive management approaches for fisheries and fishing-based communities include:

1. Flexible and adaptive management systems that reward innovation, coordination, and collaboration between regions and management bodies. Increased monitoring and use of indicators can help to prepare managers and planners as conditions change and management needs shift. 
Example: Dynamic ocean management (DOM): Dynamic spatial closures to adjust fisheries activity based on real-time data on environmental conditions and distribution of fish species.

2. Adjusting fisheries reference points often to reflect changes in species or stock abundance. 
Depends on high quality monitoring data of fisheries and environmental variability.

3. Adjusting fisheries allocations after species distributions or abundances have changed. 
Depends on high quality monitoring and modeling of species distributions and abundances, and clearly defined allocation rules based on indicators of change.

4. Adjusting fishing practices or fishing gear once fish communities change. As fish species distributions and abundances shift in response to climate impacts, fishers could adjust their fishing practices or gear to reduce interactions with non-target stocks or protected species. 
Can have negative tradeoffs based on economic costs, and changes to social structure of communities. Depends on involving fishers early in management discussions.

A cluster of white gooseneck barnacles and black mussels.
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