Warming ocean temperatures, market factors and reduced allowable catch are among the reasons Maine urchin fishermen cited early this year for a decline in the fishery. FILE PHOTO

Fishery regulators ponder how climate change will affect ocean management

BAR HARBOR — Fishery regulators up and down the East Coast met in a series of remote meetings last week to help them address how fishery management needs to evolve to handle an era of climate change in the coming decades.

“We’re likely going to have to approach things differently in order to cope with these new and very uncertain conditions ahead,” said Deirdre Boelke, a fishery analyst with the New England Marine Fisheries Council, at the first meeting, which included participants from several organizations and other members of the fisheries community.

The “East Coast Climate Change Scenario Planning” series was done to rethink how the fisheries are governed, the different structures of management and how the different regulating bodies on the Atlantic coast would collaborate going forward at a time where species may be moving outside of their traditional range.

The organizations behind the meeting included the New England Marine Fisheries Council, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries, Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

At the meeting, Sean Lucey, a fisheries biologist with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, said that in going through different planning scenarios, he wanted attendees to think about how fishery governance and management issues would be affected by climate-driven changes in things such as shifting stocks and distribution of fish.  He also wanted them to develop a set of tools and processes to provide flexible and resilient management strategies for these uncertain times.

Ecologists, seabird experts and other marine managers across the coast relayed some of the impacts they’ve seen locally due to climate change.

“We’re seeing a lot of shifting of some of our fish stocks north and that just brings up a lot of questions about management,” said Julia Byrd, a citizen science program manager at the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Over the next year, the organizations involved in the scenario planning will gather people across the fisheries with the intent to come up with ideas and recommendations. In 2022, the organizations will likely gather to talk about some of the scenarios that were created and then put forward possible recommendations and actions.

Ethan Genter

Ethan Genter

Former reporter for the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, Ethan covered maritime news and the town of Bar Harbor.
Ethan Genter

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