` Oceana Fishery Audit 2022


Climate change and ocean acidification are affecting fisheries around the world, raising water temperatures and changing water chemistry, impacting biological processes, altering migratory patterns and disrupting habitats. Looking ahead, these impacts will only intensify.

However, Canada’s current approach to fisheries management fails to adequately consider the effects of climate change. Although we have an abundance of knowledge about how climate change affects marine populations, that information is often missing from DFO’s science and advisory documents.

In fact, the science and management documents for nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of fish stocks do not formally consider climate change, despite the availability of scientific evidence.

This number includes forage fish, groundfish and large pelagic fish like tunas, which may have wider ecosystem implications. When climate considerations are included, they tend to be for healthier, less-vulnerable stocks instead of depleted stocks facing higher risks from climate effects.

Consider eight critically depleted shrimp stocks in the Pacific region that serve as a useful indicator of wider ecosystem changes.ϔ Elevated temperatures, shifts in predator distributions and ocean acidification could have a significant impact on these highly vulnerable populations. However, the effects of climate change are not considered in their official scientific stock assessments and management plans.


Credit: iStock/RyersonClark

Meanwhile, important scientific tools have yet to be consistently applied across all fisheries. These include vulnerability and risk assessments, risk-based frameworks, ecosystem-based fisheries management and a National Climate Change Adaptation Framework.

We can’t ignore climate change. With each passing year, it will put more pressure on vulnerable stocks. We need to strengthen the resilience of marine ecosystems — and that means minimizing cumulative impacts, assessing the most vulnerable populations and adapting management plans accordingly.

To fully address climate change effects in fisheries science and management, Oceana Canada has recommended several improvements,Ϡ outlined in the Recommendations section.

ϔ  Northern shrimp in the following four Shrimp Management Areas: Fraser River, Georgia Strait East, 16, 18–19; as well as pink shrimp in the following four Shrimp Management Areas: Georgia Strait East, 14, 16, 18–19.

Ϡ  Schijns, R. & Rangeley, R. (2022a). Are climate change impacts being evaluated in Canadian fisheries management? In: Fishery Audit 2022: Unlocking Canada’s Potential for Abundant Oceans. Oceana Canada. Oceana.ca/FisheryAudit2022

To restore ocean abundance in the face of climate change, more conservation-focused fisheries management is required, but it should not stop there. To rebuild overfished stocks, it is imperative to fully account for species vulnerability to climate change and urgently employ adaptive management strategies.

Dr. William Cheung, Director at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, Canada Research Chair in Ocean Sustainability and Global Change