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Earth Week: Climate and Fisheries

April 22, 2024

To celebrate Earth Day, see how our scientists are studying and tracking changes in our environment to better understand and respond to climate change.

Graphic with image of Earth in the center and corals, seals, and fish with the rise of temperatures to illustrate climate change

Earth Day is a time to celebrate our incredible planet. It is also a time to recognize the serious challenges ahead, especially in the face of a changing climate. We know climate change is already impacting our ocean and coastal resources. This week, we are showcasing the ways NOAA Fisheries is preparing for and responding to changing climate and ocean conditions.

Earth Week Features

Podcast: What Happened to All the Alaska Snow Crabs?

A few years ago, snow crab populations in Alaska collapsed. The decline of roughly 10 billion crabs hit fishermen hard and the entire industry was impacted—from distributors, to processors, to consumers. Hear how NOAA biologists solved the mystery of what happened to them.

Alaska snow crab collapse

Photo of a pair of Bering Sea snow crabs on a lab table.
Bering Sea snow crab support a valuable commercial fishery. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Reaching a Major Oyster Restoration Milestone in Virginia’s York River

NOAA and partners are making great progress toward a big goal: To restore oyster reef habitat in 10 Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025. It’s the world’s largest oyster restoration project! At an Earth Day 2024 event, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that work to restore oyster reefs in the York River is complete. The York River, which is located in NOAA’s Middle Peninsula Habitat Focus Area, is the eighth tributary to be declared to be restored.

Oyster restoration in the York River

Eight people on a boat dump oyster shells into the water, while other look on.
Representatives from partners in York River oyster restoration placed oyster shells on a York River reef to ceremonially complete the project. Photo: NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office

Unwelcome Catch: Fishermen's Stewardship Role Reeling in Marine Debris

A small group of fishermen are making a big impact by catching more than just seafood on their fishing trips, collecting any balloons they see while out on the water. We recognize their stewardship this Earth Day and invite you to join in their efforts to combat marine debris, one balloon at a time!

Fishermen tackle marine pollution, one balloon at a time

A deflated foil balloon on a beach sitting on a bed of seaweeds
A Mylar balloon on the shoreline of Santa Rosa Island off the coast of California. Credit: Courtesy of NOAA Marine Debris Program

Celebrating Earth Day 2024: Accelerating Our Response to Rapidly Changing Oceans

Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, discusses how NOAA Fisheries is accelerating our response to climate impacts on marine resources thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Read Janet's leadership message


Young Puerto Ricans Restore Habitat Damaged by Hurricane While Launching Conservation Careers

Thanks to $1.3 million in NOAA funding, BoriCorps members will gain paid work experience and training while restoring ecosystems and supporting local communities.

Habitat restoration in Puerto Rico

The 2023-2024 BoriCorps crew funded by NOAA. (Photo: BoriCorps)
The 2023-2024 BoriCorps crew funded by NOAA. (Photo: BoriCorps)

Al Roker Showcases Aquaculture as a Climate Solution

Al Roker and his team visited aquaculture efforts in California and Connecticut to learn firsthand how aquaculture can support working waterfronts, local businesses, and the coastal economy—all threatened by climate change.

Aquaculture as a climate solution

Al Roker with Danielle Blacklock, Director of NOAA's Office of Aquaculture
Al Roker with Danielle Blacklock, Director of NOAA's Office of Aquaculture. Credit: NOAA.

Climate Change Efforts Forge Ahead Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act

NOAA Fisheries used Inflation Reduction Act funding to support America’s marine resources, coastal communities, and economies while preparing for climate change in 2023–2024.

NOAA’s climate change priorities under the Inflation Reduction Act

Rec anglers holding red snapper
State, regional, and federal scientists are working closely to establish a coordinated, consistent approach in the use of state fisheries statistics, and improve the state and federal surveys in the region. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Diverse Habitats Help Salmon Weather Unpredictable Climate Changes

A new study shows that restored salmon habitat should offer fish diverse options for feeding and survival so that they can weather various conditions as the climate changes.

Read about the study on salmon habitat 

Chinook salmon jumping out of the water
Spring-run Chinook salmon in California’s Central Valley were once the backbone of California’s commercial salmon fishery, but are now a threatened species that remain in a few tributaries of the Sacramento River. Photo: Carson Jeffres / University of California, Davis

Whales and Carbon Sequestration: Can Whales Store Carbon?

Whales can help mitigate climate change impacts by storing carbon in their bodies and transporting nutrients that benefit ocean food chains.

Whales and carbon storage

North Atlantic right whale Pediddle (#1012) and calf.
North Atlantic right whale Pediddle (#1012) and calf. This species was hunted nearly to extinction by commercial whalers in the 1800s, and continues to face threats from vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

“A Better Chance for Resilience”: Using Hungry Fish to Conserve Coral Reefs

NOAA Fisheries scientist Tye Kindinger explains how identifying the best algae-grazing fish in the Pacific region can help fight against algae overgrowth and promote recovery of distressed coral reefs.

Tye Kindinger talks hungry fish and coral reef conservation

A school of large parrotfish (Chlorurus frontalis) observed during fish surveys on a coral reef.
A school of large parrotfish (Chlorurus frontalis) observed during fish surveys on a coral reef. These fish use their bird-like beaks to scrape away seaweed, or algae, on reefs. Larger parrotfish remove small amounts of underlying substrate, which creates new spaces for corals to grow. Credit: Kevin Lino/NOAA Fisheries

Planet vs. Plastics

Researchers Probe Orca Poop for Microplastics

A team of scientists with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center are finding and classifying microplastics in Southern Resident killer whale feces. They are looking at what microplastics the killer whales are ingesting, at what scale, and whether the whales are being exposed to toxic chemicals associated with microplastics.

Scientists search for microplastics in orca poop

Hands lift a pile of microplastics out of a bucket
Microplastics can be found in all major seas and oceans. Photo credit: NOAA Ocean Service.

Protecting Paradise: Marine Debris Team Does the Heavy Lifting

The team removed more than 160,000 pounds of lost or abandoned fishing nets and plastics from the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, an ecologically and culturally significant area.

Marine debris removal on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands


Earth Week Videos, Podcasts, and Story Maps

Video: How NOAA Fisheries Is Responding to Climate Change

Changes in the earth's atmosphere—due to human activities—have led to the warming of the planet. Watch the video below to learn what climate change means for our planet and fisheries.

Our climate and our fisheries

Video: U.S. Fisheries Face Climate Challenges

Climate change is affecting where fish live, what they eat, and how many of them survive in the ocean. Watch the video below to learn more about what is changing and what we are doing to understand the effects of climate change on fish stocks.

Learn more about climate and fisheries

Video: Climate Change and Habitat LossFisheries at Risk

Habitat restoration experts discuss the challenges coastal habitats face from climate change and what NOAA is doing to address them.

Video: Climate Change and Marine Animals—A Conservation Challenge

NOAA Fisheries scientists are finding that climate change is leading to rapid changes in our oceans, often harming protected species—many of which are already threatened or endangered.

Climate change and marine animals

Podcast: Adapting to the Future—Two NOAA Scientists Discuss New Global Report on Climate Change

Dr. Kirstin Holsman and Dr. Libby Jewett are two of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. They share insights on some of the challenges of climate change, as well as some actionable information. 

Listen to the podcast

Graphic of globe showing sea surface height change from 1992 to 2019
Graphic of globe showing sea surface height change from 1992 to 2019. Credit: NASA.

Story Map: How to Save an Island from Climate Change

A group of NOAA experts and partners have taken on the monumental task of protecting a small Hawaiian atoll from climate change.

Explore the story map

Rainbow in the background with plenty of flying albatross.
Lalo (French Frigate Shoals) is one of the world’s largest tropical seabirds rookeries, but climate change threatens the atoll’s seabirds and other animal inhabitants. Credit: NOAA