Sunday, 28 January 2018

Climate-related impacts on fisheries management and governance in the North East Atlantic

A workshop report produced by
the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

Climate change is a present and growing threat, creating significant shifts in the range, distribution, and productivity of key commercial species. Existing institutions in the North East Atlantic region are straining to deal with these challenges, particularly under rigid rules and governance structures that make adaptive management difficult to achieve. Tensions have already arisen from the
changing distribution of fish stocks, threatening the long-term conservation of fish species and the socioeconomic benefits derived from their use. Disputes over how to share fishery resources that are moving across geo-political boundaries have led to conflicts and overfishing and this is a problem that promises to become more acute as climate change takes hold.

At the same time, full implementation of the EU-wide landing obligation - which requires the elimination of discards of species managed by quota - is colliding with the rigidity of the EU’s fixed relative stability key. The combination of accelerated climate impacts within a rigid fisheries governance system are compounding to create a new set of challenges that have the potential to create the ‘perfect storm’ and compromise the ecological and socio-economic integrity of the region. In a shifting, dynamic, and warming ecosystem, is the current governance and management system flexible enough to ensure that climate change does not lead to chronic misalignment between EU and coastal state quota allocations and the portfolio of fish available to catch? While our institutions do not yet seem fully prepared to adapt to the layering complexities of the region, they can, and must, be brought up to date so that conflicts, overfishing, and illegal discarding can be averted. With new tools and adaptive management and governance, we have the capacity to meet this challenge.

Europe has access to world class fishery science and management expertise – an excellent foundation from which to build innovative new approaches, or unearth existing tools, to construct a stable and sustainable future under climate change. This inspired Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to join forces with the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) to bring together relevant scientific and governance expertise to delve into the challenges at hand. The frames of ‘science’, ‘management’ and ‘governance’ were used to examine the existing landscape, and explore avenues for future action.