Climate vulnerability and resilience in the most valuable North American fishery

Edited by Bonnie J. McCay, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, and approved December 20, 2017 (received for review June 20, 2017)
January 22, 2018
115 (8) 1831-1836
Commentary
Throwing back the big ones saves a fishery from hot water
Malin L. Pinsky

Significance

Climate change is impacting global fisheries and societies that depend on them. Identifying climate adaptation measures requires understanding how environmental changes and management policies interact in driving fishery productivity. Coincident with the recent exceptional warming of the northwest Atlantic Ocean, the American lobster has become the most valuable fishery resource in North America. Here we show that interactions between warming waters, ecosystem changes, and differences in conservation efforts led to the simultaneous collapse of lobster fishery in southern New England and record-breaking landings in the Gulf of Maine. Our results demonstrate that sound, widely adopted fishery conservation measures based on fundamental biological principles can help capitalize on gains and mitigate losses caused by global climate change.

Abstract

Managing natural resources in an era of increasing climate impacts requires accounting for the synergistic effects of climate, ecosystem changes, and harvesting on resource productivity. Coincident with recent exceptional warming of the northwest Atlantic Ocean and removal of large predatory fish, the American lobster has become the most valuable fishery resource in North America. Using a model that links ocean temperature, predator density, and fishing to population productivity, we show that harvester-driven conservation efforts to protect large lobsters prepared the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery to capitalize on favorable ecosystem conditions, resulting in the record-breaking landings recently observed in the region. In contrast, in the warmer southern New England region, the absence of similar conservation efforts precipitated warming-induced recruitment failure that led to the collapse of the fishery. Population projections under expected warming suggest that the American lobster fishery is vulnerable to future temperature increases, but continued efforts to preserve the stock's reproductive potential can dampen the negative impacts of warming. This study demonstrates that, even though global climate change is severely impacting marine ecosystems, widely adopted, proactive conservation measures can increase the resilience of commercial fisheries to climate change.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Burton Shank, Carl Wilson, Curt Brown, and Andy Thomas, for helpful discussions; and Mike Fogarty and Jon Hare for their comments. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Coastal SEES Program Grant OCE-1325484 (to A.L.B., A.J.P., K.E.M., Y.C., R.A.W., M.A.A., and J.D.S.).

Supporting Information

Supporting Information (PDF)

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 115 | No. 8
February 20, 2018
PubMed: 29358389

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: January 22, 2018
Published in issue: February 20, 2018

Keywords

  1. climate impacts
  2. resilience
  3. harvest strategies
  4. population dynamics
  5. American lobster

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Burton Shank, Carl Wilson, Curt Brown, and Andy Thomas, for helpful discussions; and Mike Fogarty and Jon Hare for their comments. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Coastal SEES Program Grant OCE-1325484 (to A.L.B., A.J.P., K.E.M., Y.C., R.A.W., M.A.A., and J.D.S.).

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
See Commentary on page 1678.

Authors

Affiliations

Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME 04101;
Present address: Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada A1C 5R3.
Katherine E. Mills
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME 04101;
Richard A. Wahle
School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469;
Yong Chen
School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469;
Michael A. Alexander
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO 80305;
Andrew J. Allyn
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME 04101;
Justin G. Schuetz
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME 04101;
James D. Scott
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO 80305;
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309
Andrew J. Pershing
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME 04101;

Notes

2
To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: [email protected].
Author contributions: A.L.B. and A.J.P. designed research; A.L.B. performed research; A.L.B., M.A.A., and J.D.S. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; A.L.B. analyzed data; and A.L.B., K.E.M., R.A.W., Y.C., M.A.A., A.J.A., J.G.S., J.D.S., and A.J.P. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Climate vulnerability and resilience in the most valuable North American fishery
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 115
    • No. 8
    • pp. 1665-E1936

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