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Lagged social-ecological responses to climate and range shifts in fisheries


While previous research has documented marine fish and invertebrates shifting poleward in response to warming climates, less is known about the response of fisheries to these changes. By examining fisheries in the northeastern United States over the last four decades of warming temperatures, we show that northward shifts in species distributions were matched by corresponding northward shifts in fisheries. The proportion of warm-water species caught in most states also increased through time. Most importantly, however, fisheries shifted only 10–30 % as much as their target species, and evidence suggested that economic and regulatory constraints played important roles in creating these lags. These lags may lead to overfishing and population declines if not accounted for in fisheries management and climate adaptation. In coupled natural-human systems such as fisheries, human actions play important roles in determining the sustainability of the system and, therefore, future conservation and climate mitigation planning will need to consider not only biophysical changes, but also human responses to these changes and the feedbacks that these responses have on ecosystems.

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We thank Andrew Applegate for help understanding the red hake fishery, Mary Ruckelshaus and Peter Kareiva for insightful conversations during the development of this manuscript, and the many scientists, economists, and others who collected the bottom trawl and fisheries landings data analyzed in this paper. M.L.P. was supported by the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program.

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Correspondence to Malin L. Pinsky.

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Pinsky, M.L., Fogarty, M. Lagged social-ecological responses to climate and range shifts in fisheries. Climatic Change 115, 883–891 (2012).

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  • Fishing
  • Fishing Ground
  • Range Shift
  • Prefer Temperature
  • National Marine Fishery