Discovery Files

Fishing communities from Maine to North Carolina may need to change catch species

Fishing communities require new approaches to fishing, studies find

Most fishing communities from Maine to North Carolina are projected to face declining fishing options unless they adapt to climate change by catching different species or fishing in different areas, according to a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Some Maine fishing communities are at greatest risk of losing their current fishing options, according to the work by scientists at Rutgers University and other institutions.

Communities like Portland, Maine, are on track to lose out, while others like Mattituck, New York, or Sandwich, Massachusetts, may do better as waters warm, the scientists said. Adapting to climate change for many communities will require new approaches to fishing, the researchers believe.

Fishing has been the economic and cultural lifeblood for many coastal towns and cities along the Northeast coast, in some cases for hundreds of years. But climate change is expected to have a major impact on the distribution, abundance and diversity of marine species worldwide, the study notes.

The researchers used 13 global climate models to project how ocean temperatures are likely to change. They also looked at whether the species caught by fishing communities are likely to become more, or less, abundant in the ocean regions where they typically fish.

"This new approach to mathematical modeling -- using vast data sets of fishing practices, fish populations, and projected ocean change -- can build scenarios that enable fishing communities to think about and plan for adapting to possible futures," says Mike Sieracki, a program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.