Back to FISH Vol 29 4
PUBLISHED 30 Nov 2021

CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Research Director Alistair Hobday presented at the World Fisheries Congress in September 2021, outlining steps he believes fisheries managers could take to help fisheries be better prepared for climate change, and why it matters

“This decade of climate change is locked in,” he said. “Whichever climate warming scenario we end up following, best case or worst case … we see similar rates of warming over the next decade.

“[In 10 years’ time] we are likely to cross the 1.5°C warming, which indicates dangerous climate change. For many habitats and environments on earth, crossing 1.5°C is the point of no return, with coral reef habitats being the example of where we will see really dramatic change.”

But, Hobday said, it was not just long-term trends that mattered; extreme events are also important. Marine heatwaves, for example, represented increasing climatic variability and are a precursor to what the marine climate might look like in another 10 or 20 years. Hobday also noted the Australian south-east and south-west areas of ocean are temperature hotpots with average increases double the ocean average.

As a result of these environmental changes, species distributions and ranges were changing around the world, he said. Phenology was also changing – the timing of seasonal or periodic events such as migrations – and new diseases were emerging.

“For many fishers and managers, the evidence of climate change is right in front of them …
it has been an easy conversation, to say that distribution change is the evidence of climate change.”

Management actions

Hobday offered five priorities for the decade ahead.

1. Incorporate climate change into fisheries assessment and management.

An assessment of current management documents across Australian fisheries jurisdictions found that fewer than half mentioned climate, which indicated a lack of guidance for managers. For documents related to multiple fisheries, only 30 per cent mentioned climate and 18 per cent referred to climate actions, but 40 per cent included environmental protection considerations and initiatives such as restoration, creating protected areas, restocking or plastics.

2. Help industry and management manage environmental risk, short and long-term, with adaptation options.

Hobday says there will not be a single winner in terms of the best options, and a new handbook is available to help fisheries stakeholders assess possible options. CSIRO researcher Beth Fulton officially launched the Adaptation of fisheries management to climate change handbook during the congress.

This publication, produced with FRDC funding, is designed to help fishers and fisheries managers identify effective responses to climate change by working through an evidence-based process. It was developed by CSIRO with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania.

3. Test adaptation options.

This would require using models to explore new scenarios and unknown futures. Hobday highlighted that models that focused on single species would not be effective because of the complex interactions within ecosystems, and between species, in their own adaptative strategies to climate change.

Complex models would be needed, and these should link physical, ecosystem and human aspects.

4. Use new technologies to accelerate data gathering, improve its efficiency and reduce costs.

Developments such as cameras, remote sensing, radar harvesting and vessel monitoring were capable of producing near-real-time data, but also posed issues in terms of data management and handling the vast quantities of data produced. Genetic technologies are also contributing to improved data gathering, and image analysis via machine learning opened exciting opportunities for fisheries management, regulation and business operations.

5. Provide information to decision-makers and users as quickly as possible.

While recognising that speed is sometimes uncomfortable for the scientific process, efficient real-time delivery systems of forecasts for distribution and abundance of fish species would be needed to help fishers target their catch. Planning these systems with users, and involving them in the decision-making process from the beginning, would allow for the co-production of knowledge.

Discovery agencies would also need to support the adoption and impact phase of research, which often happens a year or two after research is finished, and this would require additional investment of resources.

Hobday said innovation would be needed over the next decade to develop forecasting and other tools, including enhanced monitoring. Differential management rules, non-static stock assessments and cross-jurisdictional management may all be needed. There would also be multiple objectives to manage including social, economic and trade issues; science and climate were not the only considerations for decision-makers.  


More information
World Fisheries Congress 2021


The World Fisheries Congress was hosted on the lands of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide region.