Can we project changes in fish abundance and distribution in response to climate?

Fernandes, J. A., Rutterford, L., Simpson, S. D., Butenschön, M., Frölicher, T. L., Yool, A., Cheung, W. W. L., & Grant, A. (2020). Can we project changes in fish abundance and distribution in response to climate? Global Change Biology, 26(7), 3891–3905. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15081

Summary:

Large scale and long-term changes in fish abundance and distribution in response to climate change have been simulated using both statistical and process-based models. However, national and regional fisheries management requires also shorter-term projections on smaller spatial scales, and these need to be validated against fisheries data. A 26-year long time series of fish surveys with high spatial resolution in the North East Atlantic provides a unique opportunity to assess the ability of models to correctly simulate the changes in fish distribution and abundance that occurred in response to climate variability and change. In this study, a model forced by physical-biogeochemical output from eight ocean models was used to simulate changes in fish abundance and distribution at scales down to a spatial resolution of 0.5°. When comparing the model simulation with the available fish survey, authors concluded that predictions based on different biogeochemical models are often more similar to each other than they are to the survey data, except for some pelagic species. Additionally, the authors stressed that model results can be used to guide fisheries management at larger spatial scales, but more caution is needed at smaller scales.

Policy relevant message:

Large scale and long-term changes in fish abundance and distribution in response to climate change can be used to guide fisheries management.