Decision-Making and Action Taking: Fisheries Management in a Changing Climate
Decision-makers in fisheries management are confronted with the challenge of how to respond to existing and predicted changes in ocean conditions that are likely to affect the stocks of fish they manage. In order to address climate change most research and thinking advises decision-makers to ensure that fisheries are well-managed and abundant in an ecosystem context. These policies can best allow fisheries to adapt to changing climate. To address climate change, decision-makers should carefully monitor changing conditions and potential changes in factors affecting fish stock abundance. An adaptive approach to fisheries management under conditions of climate change requires that decision-makers engage with fishing interests in a transparent manner and in ways that respect the input of fishing interests and in ways that acknowledge the levels of uncertainty. This approach implies a governance approach to management that is closer to co-management or shared management responsibility than in most hierarchical processes that characterize fishery management to date. The answer to the question of when fishery decision-makers should begin to incorporate climate change into decision making processes is that they should have started yesterday. The justification for this is that even today, climate variability can affect fishery management decisions and the sooner this is understood and incorporated into the management process the better. In economic terms, a conservative decision relative to fisheries management is likely to produce a positive long term benefit whereas the failure to recognize the need to act in time may have serious immediate negative consequences especially when compounded by inadequate management. While climate change can also produce positive consequences for some species a note of caution is still advised in anticipating and responding to such opportunities.
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