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Earth Week: Climate and Fisheries

April 17, 2023

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 April 22, 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 scientists are using the best available science to prepare for and respond to changing climate and ocean conditions.

Explore the features below to see how we are tracking and studying the impacts and providing best-in-class data and information for a Climate-Ready Nation.

Earth Week Features

An Ecosystem-Focused Approach to Improving Fisheries Management

A NOAA report details case studies showing how U.S. regional fishery management councils can use a new tool to incorporate ecosystem stressors into their decision making.

Ecosystem-focused approach to improving fisheries management

A gray and black fish with a silver sheen swims just above a sandy aquarium bottom
A black rockfish. NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center led an ecosystem risk assessment to understand how vulnerable different fish species—including the black rockfish—are to different human activities such as abandoned fishing gear, oil spills, and coastal development in the Southern California Bight and Puget Sound. Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Chad King/NOAA Sanctuaries

Recreational Fishery Data Reveals Climate-Driven Shifts for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Catch

A new study identifies shifting distributions of Atlantic Highly Migratory Species catch, including tunas, billfish, and sharks, off the northeastern United States, providing understanding about climate change impacts to the recreational fishery.

Recreational fishing data reveals climate-driven shifts for Atlantic highly migratory species catch

Man in blue shirt on stern of boat holding large fish.

Leadership Message: Thoughts on Preparing for Climate Change

Janet Coit, Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, discusses how climate change impacts our ocean resources. The work to prepare for and address these changes is central to our mission.

Read her leadership message

Sunset over ocean water
Sunset over the ocean during a research cruise for the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

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 of which are 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.

Video: Improving Habitat for Community Resilience in Virginia's Middle Peninsula

NOAA and partners are working to bolster habitat conditions in the Middle Peninsula, which are suffering due to climate change.

Middle Peninsula of Virginia

Multimedia: Climate Change Challenges

Climate Change and Habitat Loss: Fisheries at Risk

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

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

Our Climate and Our Fisheries

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

Our climate and our fisheries 

Farming Sea Scallops in Maine

The aquaculture of sea scallops in Maine has been developing for about 20 years. Farming sea scallops offers an opportunity to diversify the seafood harvesting business and increase resiliency for coastal communities built around seafood production.

Podcast—Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: A Transformational Opportunity for Habitats

Historic climate resilience funding for NOAA, made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will improve habitat restoration, coastal resilience, and weather forecasting infrastructure.

Listen to the podcast

NOAA Fisheries staff in the field at a restoration project site in Louisiana
NOAA Fisheries staff in the field at a restoration project site in Louisiana. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

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

NOAA Fisheries podcaster John Sheehan talks with Dr. Kirstin Holsman and Dr. Libby Jewett, two of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. They share insights on some of the very real challenges of climate change, as well 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

Checking in with NOAA Fisheries Climate Scientists

“A Species like Goldilocks”: Discovering the Temperature Limits of Pacific Cod with Ben Laurel

Photo of a Pacific cod in a rearing tank.
Pacific cod, seen here in a rearing tank at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Newport, Oregon lab. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Fish biology and where fish species live are heavily linked to water temperature. In his research at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA scientist Ben Laurel focuses on how rising temperatures driven by climate change are impacting marine fish populations in Alaskan waters. When Ben isn’t in the field—catching Alaskan groundfish for scientific purposes—he researches young fish in the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s unique cold water lab. The lab allows scientists to successfully study species from all regions of Alaska, including the Arctic. One of the main species he focuses on is Pacific cod. Pacific cod is the second largest commercial groundfish catch in Alaska, which makes understanding its future geographic distribution and abundance all the more important. But more than ever, the intensifying effects of climate change are hurting this fishery.

In this Q/A, Laurel explains how raising Pacific cod in a laboratory setting offers clues on how climate change is impacting this species. 

Discovering temperature limits of Pacific cod

“Dive Into the Issue”: Visualizing Climate Change With Melissa Karp

A visualization of the species richness (predicted number of species by location) from annual Gulf of Alaska survey trawl data.
A visualization of the species richness (predicted number of species by location) from annual Gulf of Alaska survey trawl data.

A new data visualization tool, the Distribution Mapping and Analysis Portal, or DisMAP, can help stakeholders like fishery managers and researchers understand and respond to changes in marine species' distributions. The portal uses NOAA Fisheries bottom trawl survey data—some dating back almost 50 years. Stakeholders can use the portal’s map-based visualizations to explore changes over time in the distributions of more than 800 different species of marine fish and invertebrates found throughout U.S. waters. 

Explore how NOAA Fisheries’ new, interactive fisheries data portal shows how specific marine species’ locations have shifted over time, which may be in response to climate change. Check out this Q/A on the tool, featuring the portal’s project lead, Melissa Karp.

Visualizing climate change with new fisheries data portal

“Climate Change at the Water’s Edge”: Understanding the Impacts of Black Mangroves on Juvenile Shrimp

A photo of Jennifer Doerr and Jennifer Leo in the Galveston Laboratory alongside Dr. Spinrad
Jennifer Doerr and Jennifer Leo in the Galveston Laboratory alongside NOAA Administrator Dr. Richard Spinrad. Credit: Keeley Belva/NOAA Fisheries

Climate change is transforming estuaries along the Gulf Coast. When they are young, these shrimp reside in estuarine habitats, like salt marshoyster reefs, and seagrass beds. They grow there before joining the adult shrimp population out at sea. However, the types of emergent vegetation in some estuarine habitats are starting to shift from salt marsh to black mangrove in many areas of the Gulf coast due to climate change.

The impacts of these changes to shrimp are yet to be understood. Read our Q/A with NOAA scientists Jennifer Doerr and Jennifer Leo, who are working to uncover how this may affect the shrimp fishery in the years to come.  

Understanding impacts of black mangroves on juvenile shrimp

“An Era of Surprises”: Studying Climate Change and Salmon With Nate Mantua

Nate Mantua off the coast of Sonoma County on a charter boat that is part of the cooperative salmon sampling program.
Nate Mantua off the coast of Sonoma County on the New Sea Angler, a charter boat based in Bodega Bay. Credit: Nate Mantua.

Growing up in a Northern Californian fishing town, Nate Mantua’s family owned a business connected to the local salmon fishing industry. When one of the worst El Niño events ever recorded hit the West Coast in 1982 and 1983, the salmon fishery his family relied on suffered. Nate would go on to study how to predict El Niño events in graduate school, years later. Now he works to understand the impacts of climate change.

In this Q/A, NOAA Fisheries scientist Nate Mantua discusses why he started studying salmon as well as how climate change and anchovies are threatening salmon on the West Coast. Nate leads a team of salmon ecologists, biologists, freshwater and ocean experts at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center. These scientists are examining how changing conditions in freshwater, estuary, and ocean habitats affect salmon on the West Coast, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Studying climate change and salmon

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

A school of large parrotfish (Chlorurus frontalis) observed during fish surveys on a coral reef.
A school of large parrotfish observed during fish surveys on a coral reef. Credit: Kevin Lino/NOAA Fisheries

Ocean warming and ocean acidification are big threats to corals. With rising temperatures, there are increasingly more ocean warming events that bleach corals. Corals unable to recover from bleaching eventually die, degrade, and disappear altogether. And, given the scale of ocean warming, one warming event can be linked to the eventual disappearance of a substantial amount of reef.

The ocean absorbs some of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This has caused the acidity of the ocean to increase. As the water becomes more acidic, it reduces the amount of calcium carbonate available in the water that corals use to grow and repair their skeletons. As a result, it can be more difficult for corals to compete for reef space, and overall erosion of reef structure may increase. 

NOAA scientist Tye Kindinger works at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, where she researches how reef fish help protect corals from the adverse effects of climate change. In this Q/A, Kindinger explains how identifying the best seaweed-grazing fish in the Pacific Islands region can help fight against seaweed overgrowth and promote recovery of distressed coral reefs. 

Using hungry fish to conserve coral reefs

Climate Change Impacts to Protected Species

Seals, Sea Lions, and Climate Change: Shifting Prey and Habitat Impacts

The impacts of climate change continue to threaten several seal and sea lion species.

Climate change impacts to seals, sea lions, and climate change

Juvenile, spotted harp seal on sheet of ice floating above water near snowy/icy land.
A juvenile harp seal is monitored in Rye, New Hampshire. The seal was eventually relocated by trained responders because it moved too close to a main road. Credit: Seacoast Science Center

Whales and Climate Change: Big Risks to the Ocean's Biggest Species

Climate change is impacting ocean ecosystems and resulting in many challenges for a variety of marine species, including whales.

How climate change is affecting whales

Group of beluga whales, including a mother-calf pair in Cook Inlet, Alaska
Group of beluga whales, including a mother-calf pair in Cook Inlet, Alaska. Credit: NOAA Fisheries (NMFS MMPA/ESA permit 20465).

More Features

Swinomish Clam Garden to Bolster Littleneck Clam Populations

Reviving a 3,500-year-old indigenous mariculture practice with funding from NOAA.

Swinomish clam garden to bolster littleneck clam populations

Aerial image of Swinomish community members building first modern clam garden on intertidal beach
Building the first traditional clam garden on Swinomish land. Credit: NWIFC

How Will Changes in Habitat Affect Fish in and Near the Chesapeake Bay?

NOAA-funded research has explored how different species, including the commercially important summer flounder and black sea bass, may change their habitat use due to climate change.

Research on how habitat changes affect fish in the Chesapeake Bay

In the foreground, a clump of marsh grass; in the middle, a sandbar; in the background, a wide river.
Habitats including marsh are being affected by climate change. Recent research has explored how changes in habitat can affect commercially and recreationally important fish species in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo: Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve—Virginia

Global Forecasts of Marine Heatwaves Foretell Ecological and Economic Impacts

The forecasts could help fishing fleets, ocean managers, and coastal communities anticipate the effects of marine heatwaves.

Learn more about new global forecasts of marine heatwaves

The latest global marine heatwave forecast showing the predicted probability of marine heatwaves for September 2022
The latest global marine heatwave forecast showing the predicted probability of marine heatwaves for September 2022. Forecasts are experimental guidance, providing insight from the latest climate models. To see the latest marine heatwave maps and forecasts, visit NOAA's Physical Sciences Laboratory's Marine Heatwaves page.


Last updated by Office of Communications on April 20, 2023