Published: 21 February 2024 Updated: 27 February 2024
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DATE 27 Feb 2024
FEEDBACK/STORY SUGGESTIONS Dempsey Ward Communication Coordinator +61 2 6122 2134

Rising sea temperatures resulting from climate change are motivating Australia’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors to adapt quickly to the opportunities and challenges facing them

By David Maynard and Dempsey Ward

Recognising the urgency of the situation, FRDC is working with numerous science expert partners and individuals to help weave a safety net of research, communication and collaboration to help fishing and aquaculture stakeholders navigate the changing tides.  

One vital resource is the Fisheries Climate Briefings – a collaboration between CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and FRDC to provide a high-level national overview of marine warming forecasts.  

BOM Seasonal and Marine Applications Team Leader, Dr Claire Spillman, likened these sessions to a “climate report for the ocean.”  

Claire, who co-hosts the briefings with CSIRO Research Director and Senior Principal Research Scientist, Dr Alistair Hobday, has shared a wealth of ocean and climate information to more than 300 attendees who joined the briefings. 

Filling a crucial knowledge gap, FRDC’s Extension and Adoption Manager, Jamie Allnutt, saw the need for a coordinated national response. The briefings have become a valuable source of information for anyone involved in marine activities around Australia, providing information about likely marine heatwaves ahead of time, giving a preparation window to implement operational responses. 

“Feedback from stakeholders has shown the briefings are extremely successful in providing information to assist decision making and response planning in regard to the forecasted marine heatwaves,” Jamie pointed out. 

Map of Australia showing Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly. Areas around tasmania are very red
Sea surface temperature anomaly forecast for March 2024, issued 21 January 2024. An anomaly is a departure from average conditions, with reds representing warmer than average temperatures and blues representing cooler than average temperatures. Forecasts available here: 


The webinars have spurred several jurisdictional responses such as the Northern Territory, who now provide detailed stakeholder briefings, and NSW and Tasmania, who have developed Marine Heatwave response plans in preparation for potential major impacts. 

FRDC’s Extension Officer Network is also taking this information directly to grassroots stakeholders, ensuring it reaches those who need it most says Jamie.  

The latest National briefing - number 4 of 5 in the series - held in February this year presented the predicted climate and ocean conditions for Australian waters for the next three months. 

These webinars provide valuable forecast and ocean data for Australia, together with a clear interpretation to help build awareness in the community. They are vital tools to help fishing and aquaculture stakeholders navigate our changing ocean to secure tomorrow’s catch. You can find the suite of videos here

Gaining knowledge is not enough, as fishing and aquaculture stakeholders also need to be equipped with adaptation strategies to shift mindsets. This is where Domain Leader of Integrated Ocean Stewardship, Dr Beth Fulton, and her climate change adaptation workshops have become another crucial resource. These workshops bring together fishers, state bodies, decision-makers and research organisations to discuss and assess how climate change is affecting fisheries.  

One recent workshop was held in South Australia and involved the Blue Crab Fishery management zones. As the crabs scuttled their bodies south, seeking cooler waters, their human counterparts posed a more flexible management zone.  

Blue Swimmer Crab in Ice
Blue swimmer crabs (Portunus pelagicus) are a highly sought after recreational and commercial species. 


Workshop discussions explored a broad range of ideas, from harnessing Artificial Intelligence and its ability to help with real-time catch data or crafting a set of shared social values for fishers and aquaculturists to apply.  

Each workshop group then received a follow-up report synthesising information about what the issue was, the options that were presented and the pros and cons of each concept. 

The report also measured the scenarios against the handbook produced as part of FRDC Project 2016-059.  

“We have seen completely different answers and assessments in each location, because of the different ecosystems and people involved,” Beth notes. “Australian fishers and fisheries are not doomed, but they may look a bit different in future”.FRDC’s reach doesn’t just cast wide, but further out too. A recently completed FRDC project (2021-089), led by Seafood Industry Australia, delivered a multitude of options for fisheries stakeholders. A range of sector-wide scenarios were created to analyse the effect of different actions and possible technological and/or commercial breakthroughs. Learnings from these scenarios then informed the creation of energy transition roadmaps to assist with decarbonising fishing vessels.  

“Imagine diesel engines powered by renewable fuels harvested from the very ocean they sustain,” Tasmanian FRDC Extension Officer David Maynard said. “The projects energy transition roadmaps chart a course towards cleaner vessels and oceans, whether it be through battery-powered outboards or the promise of bio-methanol for inboard engines.”   

“There are promising signs regarding emissions capture solutions for small and medium maritime vessels. It’s feasible that if focus was put into developing these solutions, they would offer a faster pathway for decarbonising the fishing fleet of today and tomorrow.”  

Forecasting the future

FRDC and partners are proactively tackling the impact climate change will have on our future, with co-investment in project ‘Sea Change: co-developing pathways to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate for fisheries and aquaculture in Australia’ (FRDC-Project 2023-011).  This collaborative approach aims to bridge the gap between existing climate knowledge and its practical application in the marine sector.  

"Extensive data on marine climate change impacts and possible adaptations to ensuring fisheries thrive into the future is out there," says Professor Gretta Pecl, project leader and University of Tasmania professor. "Of course, important gaps still remain, and progress and adoption have been sluggish. The Sea Change project is about breaking down barriers and co-creating solutions that are readily embraced and implemented leaving a legacy beyond the project's lifespan."

Note: Whilst FRDC has invested in this project, the funding process for co-investors has not yet concluded.  

University of Tasmania Professor Grett Pecl (Left) with CSIRO Domain Leader Dr. Beth Fulton (Right)
Pictured: University of Tasmania Professor Grett Pecl (Left) with CSIRO Domain Leader Dr. Beth Fulton (Right) 


FRDC has also invested in the ‘Futures of Seafood’ (FRDC-Project 2023-092). This project will see the Blue Economy CRC and Seafood Industry Australia working closely with a wide range of partners, including fisheries management, industry and Indigenous representative organisations and policy makers, to map an evidence-based future for Australia’s Indigenous, commercial, recreational fishing and aquaculture sectors.  

Blue background showing partners involved in futures of seafood project. Thisinclude Seafood Industry Australia, Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.​​​
Current project partners include Seafood Industry Australia, Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.​​​ 


“‘Futures of Seafood’ offers a contemporary and wholistic approach to profiling the fish caught and farmed by Indigenous, commercial, recreational fishing and aquaculture sectors today, and what our seafood requirements could look like tomorrow,” FRDC’s General Manager of Research and Investment Crispian Ashby said. 

“We are asking the tough questions – what if we are at a tipping point? What is the future of our fisheries, and is it hanging in the balance?”    

Related FRDC Projects

2023-092: Futures of Seafood. Wild. Aquaculture. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders  

2023-011: Sea Change: co-developing pathways to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate for fisheries and aquaculture in Australia  

2021-089: Climate resilient wild catch fisheries 

2016-059: Guidance on Adaptation of Commonwealth Fisheries management to climate change