Northeast Vulnerability Assessment
The Northeast Fish and Shellfish Climate Vulnerability Assessment uses existing information on the climate, the state of the ocean, species distributions, and life history to assess species’ vulnerability under projected future climate and ocean conditions. Experts used agreed upon rules to score each species as low, moderate, high, or very high for its sensitivity to climate change (based on specific facts about its life history), its exposure to climate change (the overlap between expected change and its current distribution), and the overall expected directional effect (whether it is expected to do worse, better, or the same). The experts’ scores were combined; later, in a workshop, the experts shared and discussed their scores before submitting final evaluations.
About half the species assessed are estimated to have a high or very high vulnerability to climate change in the region, including species like sea scallops, lobster, and winter flounder. Some species may do better with projected climate-related changes—Atlantic croaker, spot, and black sea bass among others. In general, diadromous fish and benthic invertebrate species are predicted to be more vulnerable to climate effects in the ecosystem, and pelagic species are predicted to be less vulnerable. “Specialist” species (that is, species with specific habitat and prey needs) tend to be more vulnerable than “generalists.”
Along with these general results, the assessment developed species-specific ones.
This assessment is meant to help guide more detailed science and management actions. Scientists can use it to learn where more information is needed to better prepare for and respond to climate-related impacts (e.g., stock assessments, research priorities, monitoring). Managers can use the information on a species’ vulnerability when considering management measures.
Background on the Northeast Fish and Shellfish Climate Vulnerability Assessment
Climate-related changes in ocean ecosystems are impacting the nation's marine species and the people, businesses and communities that depend on them. Warming oceans, rising seas, and ocean acidification are impacting marine life and also disrupting fisheries and local economies. These impacts are expected to increase with continued changes in the planet’s climate system. To help reduce impacts and increase the resilience of marine resources, we are assessing the vulnerability of fish species to changing climate and ocean conditions.
The Northeast Fish and Shellfish Climate Vulnerability Assessment was the first assessment of its kind, where our scientists applied a new methodology to assess the climate vulnerability of 82 fish and invertebrate species in the Northeast region. The results of the assessment were published in 2016 and are available here. Similar assessments are also underway for the Bering Sea and California Current Ecosystems.