Climatic Change

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 199-212

First online:

Effects of climate change on oceanic fisheries in the tropical Pacific: implications for economic development and food security

  • Johann D. BellAffiliated withSecretariat of the Pacific Community Email author 
  • , Chris ReidAffiliated withForum Fisheries Agency
  • , Michael J. BattyAffiliated withSecretariat of the Pacific Community
  • , Patrick LehodeyAffiliated withCollecte Localisation Satellites
  • , Len RodwellAffiliated withForum Fisheries Agency
  • , Alistair J. HobdayAffiliated withClimate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research
  • , Johanna E. JohnsonAffiliated withC2O Consulting and Southern Cross University
  • , Andreas DemmkeAffiliated withSecretariat of the Pacific Community

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The four species of tuna that underpin oceanic fisheries in the tropical Pacific (skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore tuna) deliver great economic and social benefits to Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs). Domestic tuna fleets and local fish processing operations contribute 3–20 % to gross domestic product in four PICTs and licence fees from foreign fleets provide an average of 3–40 % of government revenue for seven PICTs. More than 12,000 people are employed in tuna processing facilities and on tuna fishing vessels. Fish is a cornerstone of food security for many PICTs and provides 50–90 % of dietary animal protein in rural areas. Several PICTs have plans to (1) increase the benefits they receive from oceanic fisheries by increasing the amount of tuna processed locally, and (2) allocate more tuna for the food security of their rapidly growing populations. The projected effects of climate change on the distribution of tuna in the tropical Pacific Ocean, due to increases in sea surface temperature, changes in velocity of major currents and decreases in nutrient supply to the photic zone from greater stratification, are likely to affect these plans. PICTs in the east of the region with a high dependence on licence fees for government revenue are expected to receive more revenue as tuna catches increase in their exclusive economic zones. On the other hand, countries in the west may encounter problems securing enough fish for their canneries as tuna are redistributed progressively to the east. Changes in the distribution of tuna will also affect the proportions of national tuna catches required for food security. We present priority adaptations to reduce the threats to oceanic fisheries posed by climate change and to capitalise on opportunities.