Climate change is a major environmental threat and there is a national imperative to establish likely impacts on fisheries in Australia. Northern Australia is predicted to be affected by changes in rainfall patterns and resultant increases in river flows to the marine environment, increased intensity of cyclones, increased water temperatures, increases in ocean acidification, and altered current patterns (CSIRO 2007). These changes in the marine environment will directly impact on fisheries including modified phenology and physiology, altered ranges and distributions, composition and interactions within communities, and fisheries catch rates (Hobday et al 2008, Munday et al 2008, Halliday et al, 2008, Balston 2009). Critically, most fisheries in northern Australia are deemed to be not well prepared at all for future climate impacts (Hobday et al 2008). For fishery sectors in northern Australia to be able to respond positively and adapt to climate-induced changes on fish stocks there is a need to determine which stocks, and where, when and how they are likely to be affected. Current fisheries management in northern Australia is jurisdiction-based. There is a need for a co-operative approach to developing management policy that can deal with future climate change scenarios. Development of such policy requires consultation with all stakeholder groups. This addresses one of the NCCARP high priority research needs for commercial and recreational fishing, two of FRDC's Strategic Priority R&D Areas (Themes 3 & 4), and priorities for Qld and NT management agencies.
There exists extensive northern Australia biophysical and fisheries data for regional assessment of likely climate change impacts. Data include temperature, salinity, pH, wind, rainfall, upwelling events and river flows. There is a critical need for the collation of existing data sets to determine and document the key environmental drivers for northern Australian fisheries; a key research priority for national, Qld and NT agencies.
The species profiles herein are a selection of 23 of the some of the most important fishery species of northern Australia. Although there are many others that could have been included, the species were selected to be representative of the regions, fishery sectors and taxa, while also being identified as high priority species during consultations with stakeholders. As a companion report to Part 1: Vulnerability assessment and adaptation options, the information compiled here for each species provided the necessary baseline information for this project: (i) carry out further species sensitivity data analyses, (ii) conduct the species-based vulnerability assessments, and (iii) identify appropriate adaptation options and barriers. Each species profile covered the following aspects: fisheries, biology, ecology and life cycle, and environmental sensitivity and resilience in a climate change context. This content followed the template set by the similar project conducted in south-eastern Australia (Pecl et al. 2011) thereby ensuring consistency across projects.
Each profile involved comprehensive literature reviews so as to provide the most up-to-date, and therefore relevant, information to inform the major tasks of the project. Firstly, identifying the known sensitivity of each species to key environmental (climate) variables helped us to set up hypotheses for testing for the data analyses conducted for some species, determined the information gaps, and informed the development and scoring for the vulnerability assessments. Documenting the biology, ecology and life history also informed the development of the hypotheses as well as the vulnerability assessments. Information about the fisheries, including their management and operational characteristics, was important also in informing the vulnerability assessments, and particularly in identifying adaptation options for fisheries.