Marine fisheries winners and losers under historical warming

Dr Christopher  Free1,2, Dr James Thorson3, Dr Malin Pinsky2, Dr Kiva Oken2, Dr John Wiedenmann2, Dr Olaf Jensen2

1University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, USA, 2Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA, 3Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Highland Park, USA


Climate change is altering habitats for marine fishes and invertebrates, but the net effect of these changes on population growth rates is unknown. We used temperature-dependent population models to measure the influence of warming on the productivity of 235 populations of 124 species in 38 ecoregions. Some populations responded significantly positively (n=9) and others responded significantly negatively (n=19) to warming, with the direction and magnitude of the response explained by ecoregion, taxonomy, life history, and exploitation history. Hindcasts indicate that maximum sustainable yield of the evaluated populations has decreased by 4.1% from 1930-2010, with five ecoregions experiencing losses of 15-35%. Outcomes of fisheries management – including long-term food provisioning – will be improved by accounting for changing productivity in a warmer ocean.


Chris Free is a postdoctoral researcher with the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UC Santa Barbara where he works on fisheries and climate change, data-limited stock assessment, and marine protected area effectiveness.

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