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Climate, Fisheries, and Protected Resources

Climate change is already having a profound effect on life 
in the oceans. Marine species tend to be highly mobile, and many are moving quickly toward the poles to stay cool as average ocean temperatures rise. These shifts can cause ecological disruptions as predators become separated from their prey. They can also cause economic disruptions if a fish population becomes less productive or moves out of range of the fishermen who catch them.

In addition to getting warmer, the oceans are also becoming more acidic as they absorb about one-half of the CO2 we emit into the atmosphere. This increased acidity can make life difficult for organisms that build shells out of calcium carbonate. This includes not only corals and shellfish, but also tiny organisms like pteropods that form the foundation of many marine food webs.

NOAA Fisheries scientists are working to understand the effects of climate change and ocean acidification so we can minimize the disruptions they cause, adapt to the changes that are coming, and ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits of healthy marine ecosystems. Here are some of the things we're working on...





Distribution of Fish on the Northeast U.S. Shelf Influenced by both Fishing and Climate
Larger, older fish further north? Fishing pressure and climate can both influence changes in distribution of popular species. Read more...

The OceanAdapt Website: Tracking Fish Populations as the Climate Changes
As the oceans warm, fish populations are on the move. A new online database that tracks their movements should help fishermen and fishery managers to adapt. Read more...

Butterfish—Little Fish Big Science
The new stock assessment for butterfish accounted for the effects of ocean temperatures on the distribution of the stock, something that will become increasingly important as the climate changes and the oceans warm. Read more...

New Climate Toolkit Helps Communities Prepare for a Changing World 
The new Climate Resilience Toolkit developed by a NOAA-led team of federal agencies and released by the White House today offers information from across the federal government in one easy-to-use location, so that Americans are better able to understand the climate-related risks and opportunities impacting their communities. Some of the features of the Toolkit include The Climate Explorer--a visualization tool providing maps of climate stressors and impacts and interactive graphs-- steps to resilience, "taking action" stories, and a federal resource database. Read more...

Enhancing Climate Resilience of America's Natural Resources
NOAA Fisheries Service activities are a key part of a bold new Administration Priority Agenda to enhance the climate resilience of our nation's natural resources. The Agenda identifies four priority action areas and specific actions NOAA Fisheries and other federal agencies will take. For example, over the next year, NOAA Fisheries Service and partners will deploy new resilience tools to collect information on current and future marine ecosystem conditions. Fisheries also applied cutting edge techniques in 2014 to assess the vulnerability of 80 East Coast fish stocks to climate change. Read more...


Taking Action: National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants in a Changing Climate
This report highlights 50 activities that illustrate the variety of actions agencies and partners including NOAA Fisheries are taking to help safeguard fish, wildlife and plants, and the people that depend on them. Read more...


Climate-Smart Conservation Guide
Climate change is already affecting the nation’s valuable marine and coastal resources and the communities that depend on them. NOAA Fisheries and partners recently released a new guide to safeguarding our vital natural resources in the face of changing climate and ocean conditions. Developed by a broad collaboration of experts from federal, state, and non-governmental institutions, the new guide offers practical steps for crafting conservation actions to enhance the resilience of the natural ecosystems on which wildlife and people depend. Read more...


National Climate Assessment
The 3rd National Climate Assessment confirms that climate change is affecting every region of the United States and key sectors of the U.S. Economy.

The report finds that climate change is not a distant threat: it is affecting the American people already. These findings underscore the need for urgent action to combat the threats from climate change, protect American citizens and communities today, and build a healthy, sustainable future for our kids and grandkids. Read more...


Does "Global Warming" Mean It's Warming Everywhere?
No, "global warming" means Earth's average annual air temperature is rising, but not necessarily in every single location during all seasons across the globe. A new climate Q&A explains more about this idea. Read more...


Climate Change and Fisheries
How will we manage fish populations as the climate changes? NOAA Fisheries biologist John Manderson is working on one small piece of the puzzle. Read more...


Sound Science and Climate Change
As our climate changes, we must base our policies in sound science. Read what our chief scientist for NOAA Fisheries, Richard Merrick, has to say about the importance of sound science. Read more...


Climate and the Endangered Species Act
Scientists are working to ensure that the Endangered Species Act remainseffective in the face of a changing climate. A special section in the latest issue of Conservation Biology highlights their progress. Read more...


Two Takes on Climate Change
A pair of studies in September 2013 showed how marine ecosystems are changing as ocean temperatures rise, and that these changes are happening more quickly than expected. Read more...


Climate and the Ultimate Fried Fish
How could a changing climate impact your favorite seafood? Researchers at The Ohio State University are currently studying the impact of climate change on fish in the Great Lakes. Read more...


Climate and Fish Sticks
Multiple types of white fish have been used for fish sticks, but today, the primary fish-stick fish is Alaska pollock. Learn more about the connection between warmer temperatures and Alaska pollock. Read more...