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Regional Action Plan for Climate Science in the Pacific Islands

This Regional Action Plan guides implementation of the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy in the Pacific Islands Region.


The Need for Action

The Pacific Islands are expected to see increased ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, increased ocean acidity, lower ocean productivity, and changes in ocean currents, weather patterns, and extreme weather. Many of these changes have already been observed and are projected to intensify further. Ecosystems and communities will be impacted by these changes in many ways. Decision-makers need information on the timing, nature, and magnitude of climate-related impacts to this region's valuable marine resources.


Opah (moonfish) and bigeye tuna at the Honolulu Fish Auction (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Megan Joyce).

What's at Risk?

The seafood industry in the Pacific plays an essential role in the U.S. economy by providing more than $100 million dollars in annual landings revenue and thousands of jobs (Fisheries Economics of the United States). Climate change is projected to reduce the Hawaii-based longline fishery's yield by up to 50% by the end of the century, resulting in a loss of food and economic resources.

Diver conducts survey to assess reef condition after coral bleaching at Jarvis Island

Diver conducts a survey to assess reef condition after 98% of corals bleached and died at Jarvis Island in 2015–2016. One of the few remaining Acropora corals in the foreground and red turf algae growing over damaged corals (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Tate Wester). 

Coral reef ecosystems are stressed by both increasing ocean temperatures and increasing ocean acidification. Loss of coral reef habitat negatively impacts both coral reef ecosystems and the humans who depend on them. Low islands are facing rising sea levels, resulting in the loss of coastal habitat for humans as well as sea turtles, seabirds, and Hawaiian monk seals. Rising sea levels are also resulting in saltwater intrusion, threatening freshwater and agriculture.

Key indicators of changing climate and ocean conditions in the Pacific Islands region

Key indicators of changing climate and ocean conditions in the Pacific Islands region (Figure from: Climate Change and the Pacific Islands: Indicators and Impacts. Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment, 2012).

Action Plans

Across the nation, we are working to build the scientific foundation to reduce impacts, mitigate risk, and increase resilience to changing oceans. The Pacific Islands Regional Action Plan is one of five Regional Action Plans that guide implementation of the national climate science strategy in each region for the next five years. Specifically, the plans identify actions to address information needs that the Fishery Management Councils and many other partners and stakeholders determined as top priorities. Implementing these plans will provide managers with the timely information needed to protect and conserve our valuable marine resources.

Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtles at Tern Island

Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtles at Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Mark Sullivan).

Goal and Objectives

The goal of the plan is to increase the production, delivery, and use of climate-related information to help reduce impacts and increase resilience of the region’s living marine resources and resource-dependent communities.

Objective 1: Identify climate-informed reference points

  • Incorporate climate data into bottomfish and billfish stock assessments
  • Begin incorporating climate impacts in coral reef annual catch limits
  • More fully address climate impacts on fishery and protected species reference points

Objective 2: Create robust management strategies for a changing climate

  • Conduct management strategy evaluations to identify strategies that are robust under climate change scenarios
  • Incorporate climate information into Fishery Ecosystem Plans

Objective 3: Incorporate adaptive decision processes

  • Design adaptive decision processes for management
  • Incorporate climate information into management designations of protected species critical habitat and recovery planning

Objective 4: Project future conditions

  • Describe projected oceanographic impacts from climate change
  • Conduct coral reef and fish vulnerability assessments
  • Project impacts of climate change on fishery yield, ecosystem structure, and fishing communities

Objective 5: Understand how things are changing and why

  • Initiate laboratory and field studies to determine mechanisms linking environmental change and ecosystem response
  • Develop economic models to assess trip costs and fisher participation under future climate conditions
  • Build physiologically-based models to understand climate impacts on protected species

Objective 6: Track changes and provide early warnings

  • Continue living marine resource assessments and ecosystem monitoring
  • Develop and track climate indices for Council’s annual reports

Objective 7: Build our science infrastructure

  • Expand monitoring of climate impacts on key ecosystems, species, and habitats
  • Participate in local, national, and international trainings, workshops, working groups, and conferences
  • Regularly publish climate and ecosystem research

Moving Forward

The plan would not succeed and provide useful information without partnerships. We continue to collaborate with stakeholders to acquire scientific data and form strategies that will sustain fisheries, healthy ecosystems, and coastal communities in the Pacific Islands. The challenges are great, the issues are complex, and resources are limited. By working together, we can reduce the impacts of changing climate on fisheries, coral reefs, and protected species.


2018 Annual Collaborative Climate Science Workshop in the Pacific Islands

2017 Annual Collaborative Climate Science Workshop in the Pacific Islands