Scenarios for investigating the future of Canada’s oceans and marine fisheries under environmental and socioeconomic change

Abstract

There is a critical need to develop effective strategies for the long-term sustainability of Canada’s oceans. However, this is challenged by uncertainty over future impacts of global environmental and socioeconomic change on marine ecosystems, and how coastal communities will respond to these changes. Scenario analysis can address this uncertainty by exploring alternative futures for Canadian oceans under different pathways of climate change, economic development, social and policy changes. However, there has, to date, been no scenario analysis of Canada’s future ocean sustainability at a national scale. To facilitate this process, we review whether the literature on existing scenarios of Canada’s fisheries and marine ecosystems provides an integrative, social-ecological perspective about potential future conditions. Overall, there is sufficient national-level oceanographic data and application of ecosystem, biophysical, and socioeconomic models to generate projections of future ocean and socioeconomic trends in Canada. However, we find that the majority of marine-related scenario analyses in Canada focus on climate scenarios and the associated oceanographic and ecological changes. There is a gap in the incorporation of social, economic, and governance drivers in scenarios, as well as a lack of scenarios which consider the economic and social impact of future change. Moreover, available marine scenario studies mostly do not cover all three Canadian oceans simultaneously. To address these gaps, we propose to develop national-level scenarios using a matrix framework following the concept of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, which would allow a social-ecological examination of Canada’s oceans in terms of the state of future uncertainties.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Scenario building is a core component of the interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral OceanCanada Partnership (www.oceancanada.org). OceanCanada researcher synthesize social, cultural, and environmental knowledge about Canadian oceans and coasts to take stock of present status, build scenarios for possible futures, and by doing so create a national dialogue and shared vision for Canada’s oceans.

  2. 2.

    RCPs represent different trajectories for the development of emissions and concentrations of atmospheric constituents that affect the climate system over time (to 2100). These pathways may be affected to some extent by mitigation policies.

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Acknowledgements

This study is an output of the OceanCanada Partnership, a project funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Grant Number 985-2013-1009. W.W.L.C. also acknowledges funding support from the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The funders had no involvement in any part of this paper.

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Teh, L.S.L., Cheung, W.W.L. & Sumaila, U. . Scenarios for investigating the future of Canada’s oceans and marine fisheries under environmental and socioeconomic change. Reg Environ Change 17, 619–633 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1081-5

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Keywords

  • Scenario analysis
  • Canada
  • Marine resource sustainability
  • Oceans
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Climate change