NOAA: Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management is Key to Protecting Alaska Fisheries

A new federal fisheries study projects that ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) can forestall climate-driven collapse of key Alaska fisheries better than other management policies.

According to biologist Kirstin Holsman of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center ecosystem based management helps both the fish and fishing communities.

“It is the best strategy we have to provide harvest stability in the coming years,” Holsman said. Still by mid-century, or sooner, Alaska fisheries may reach a tipping point or rapid decline in the eastern Bering Sea if climate change continues on the current trajectory and fish and fisheries are not able to adapt to these changing conditions,” she said. “To guarantee long-term success, we need to couple EBFM with global climate change mitigation.”

EBFM management considers the impacts on fish productivity from environmental variables, including changing ocean conditions and socio-economic factors, to help fishery managers and harvester plan for the future.
Current EBFM in the Bering Sea has sustained high yield from fisheries over the last three decades, but that practice is yet untested against the magnitude of environmental change anticipated with future climate change.
The study is part of NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling (ACLIM) project. The study team includes scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

In the next phase of ACLIM, researchers plan to incorporate information on marine mammals, including northern fur seals, and the subsistence communities dependent on them, plus fish movements and human response.
Holsman said that over the next three years scientists will design and test climate-smart management approaches and assessment tools. “Technological advances, like expanded use of remote sensing and automated sampling, will also play a big role,” she said.

“Proactive management like EBFM can buy us more time,” she said, while there are still commercially viable Pollock and cod fisheries in the Bering Sea.