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Climate-change impacts and fisheries management challenges in the North Atlantic Ocean

Andrea Bryndum-Buchholz*, Daniel G. Boyce, Derek P. Tittensor, Villy Christensen, Daniele Bianchi, Heike K. Lotze

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Climate-induced changes in the world’s oceans will have implications for fisheries productivity and management. Using a model ensemble from the Fisheries and Marine Ecosystem Model Intercomparison Project (Fish-MIP), we analyzed future trajectories of climate-change impacts on marine animal biomass and associated environmental drivers across the North Atlantic Ocean and within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) convention area and evaluated potential consequences for fisheries productivity and management. Our ensemble results show that the magnitude of projected biomass changes increased over time and from a low (RCP2.6) to high (RCP8.5) emissions scenario. Within individual NAFO divisions, however, projected biomass changes differed in the magnitude and sometimes the direction of change between near (the 2030s) and far future (the 2090s) and contrasting emissions scenarios. By the 2090s, most NAFO divisions with historically (1990–1999) high fisheries landings were projected to experience biomass decreases of 5-40%, while arctic and subarctic divisions with lower historical landings were projected to experience biomass increases between 20 and 70% under RCP8.5. Future trajectories of sea surface temperature and primary production corroborated that the far future, high emissions scenario poses the greatest risk to marine ecosystems and the greatest challenges to fisheries management. Our study summarizes future trends of marine animal biomass and underlying uncertainties related to model projections under contrasting climate-change scenarios. Understanding such climate-change impacts on marine ecosystems is imperative for ensuring that marine fisheries remain productive and sustainable in a changing ocean.