Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 561–575 | Cite as

The adaptive capacity of fishery management systems for confronting climate change impacts on marine populations

  • Michael C. MelnychukEmail author
  • Jeannette A. Banobi
  • Ray Hilborn
Research Paper


Global climate change will affect the abundance, distribution, and life history timing of many exploited marine populations, but specific changes are difficult to predict. Management systems in which harvest strategies and tactics are flexible in responding to unpredictable biological changes are more likely to succeed in maintaining productive populations. We explore the adaptability of fisheries management systems in relation to oceanic warming rates by asking how two important management characteristics vary with temperature changes for >500 stocks. (1) Harvest control rules, a framework for altering fishing pressure in response to changes in the abundance of targeted species (primarily due to fishing), may provide the capacity for harvest policies to change in response to climate-driven abundance declines also. (2) Seasonal openings with flexible dates that involve in-season monitoring may allow managers to better respond to possible changes in the timing of life-history periods like spawning to prevent fishing seasons falling out of sync with species’ phenology. Harvest control rules were widely used across industrialized fisheries including in regions that experienced relatively high oceanic warming rates, but after controlling for regional factors we found no association between ocean warming and the use of harvest control rules. Flexible-date seasonal openings were rare compared to fixed-date seasonal openings, but tended to occur in areas with the greatest warming rates while fisheries without seasonal closures tended to occur in areas with the least observed temperature changes. We found no consistent evidence of recent ocean warming effects on the current biomass or exploitation rates relative to management targets of 241 assessed marine populations. Together, these results suggest that the oceanic areas expected to have the greatest climate impacts on populations do at least tend to contain fisheries that demonstrate the potential for adaptability to unpredictable climate impacts.


Fisheries management Climate change Global warming Fish biomass Exploitation rate Meta-analysis 



We thank many fishery scientists and managers for proving information about the use of harvest control rules and seasonal closures through interviews, including: Jane DiCosimo, Diana Stram, Mary Furuness, Edward Poulsen, Scott Kelley, Gretchen Bishop, Dave Harris, Tim Sands, Mark Stichert, Joe Stratman, and Jeff Wadle (US Alaska); John Devore, Kerry Griffin, Kristine Barsky, Kelly Corbett, Scott Groth, Bob Hannah, Peter Kalvass, Heather Reed, Bob Sizemore, Mike Ulrich, and Lorna Wargo (US West Coast); Tom Nies, Andy Applegate, Jason Didden, Toni Kerns, Danielle Chesky, Peter Christopher, Phil Haring, Tom Hoff, José Montañez, and Lori Steele (US East Coast); Tamee Karim, Rob Tadey, Dan Clark, Laurie Convey, Michelle James, Lisa Mijacika, Pauline Ridings, Bryan Rusch, Brenda Spence, and Erin Wylie (Canada West Coast); Analia Giussi, Jorge Hansen, and Marta Renzi (Argentina); Doug Butterworth, Carryn de Moor, Susan Halloway, and Rebecca Rademeyer (South Africa). We thank Alistair Hobday for providing the map shown in Fig. 1. We thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. We thank William Cheung for helpful discussions. We thank the Global Marine Hotspots Network for the invitation to participate in the World Fisheries Congress session and this special issue. Funding for this study was provided by a Comparative Analysis Of Marine Ecosystem Organization (CAMEO) grant through the National Science Foundation and NOAA, by the Walton Family Foundation, and by a Banting Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Supplementary material

11160_2013_9307_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael C. Melnychuk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeannette A. Banobi
    • 1
  • Ray Hilborn
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Aquatic and Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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