Understanding Our Changing Climate
Changes in our climate and our oceans are having very real and profound effects on the natural resources we depend on—including our fisheries and coastal habitats.
Climate has a profound effect on life in the oceans. Climate-related changes in ocean ecosystems such as warming oceans, increasing acidification, and rising seas can affect the distribution and abundance of marine species and thereby impact the people and communities that depend on them. We work with partners to understand and respond to changing climate and ocean conditions to help minimize impacts, adapt to the changes that are coming, and ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits of healthy marine ecosystems.
Communities and economies in southern states are also being impacted by changing climate and ocean conditions. Louisiana loses a football-field-size area of coastal wetlands to the sea every hour due to rising seas and sinking lands.
Climate change is already having a profound effect on life in the oceans. Droughts, floods, rising seas, ocean acidification, and warming oceans are changing the productivity of our waters and areas where wildlife live, spawn, and feed. There is much at risk—marine fisheries and seafood industries support more than $200 billion in economic activity and 1.83 million jobs annually.
We conduct a variety of science activities including monitoring, research, modeling and assessments to inform and fulfill our agency mission. This includes tracking current conditions, providing early warnings and forecasts, understanding the mechanisms of climate impacts, projecting future conditions, and evaluating possible options for fisheries management and protected resources conservation in a changing world.
The NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy is part of a proactive approach to increase the production, delivery, and use of climate-related information needed to fulfill our mandates. The strategy identifies seven objectives to provide decision-makers with the information they need to reduce impacts and increase resilience with changing climate and ocean conditions.
Working with our partners, we developed regional action plans to guide how we implement our national climate science strategy in each of our regions. The goal is to provide decision-makers with the information they need to reduce impacts of changing climate and oceans and increase resilience of valuable marine resources and the people who depend on them.
We support a NOAA-wide Ocean Acidification Program, established by Congress in 2009, which will plan and oversee a long-term coastal and open-ocean monitoring program and lead research on the impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and the socioeconomic implications of these impacts.
Our Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment Methodology provides decision-makers with information on the relative vulnerability of fish species with expected changes in climate and ocean conditions. The methodology uses information on species life history characteristics, species distributions and projected future climate, and ocean conditions to estimate the relative vulnerability of fish species to changes in abundance.
The changing climate is affecting our nation’s valuable living marine resources and the people, businesses, and communities that depend on them. From warming oceans and rising seas, to droughts and ocean acidification, scientists expect these impacts to increase with continued changes in the planet’s climate system.
The NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy is part of a proactive approach to increase climate-related information needed to fulfill our mandates. It is crucial to fulfilling our mission with changing climate and ocean conditions. By increasing the production, delivery, and use of climate-related information, NOAA Fisheries and partners will help reduce impacts and increase the resilience of the nation’s valuable living marine resources and the communities that depend on them.
The strategy identifies seven objectives to provide decision-makers with the information they need. It also responds to growing demands for information and tools to prepare for and respond to climate impacts on marine and coastal resources.
Working with our partners, we developed regional action plans to guide how we implement our national climate science strategy in each of our regions. The goal is to provide decision-makers with the information they need to reduce impacts and increase resilience of valuable marine resources and the people who depend on them.
Fisheries and the Environment is a research program that enhances our understanding of environmental impacts on living marine resources and usesthis information to improve stock assessments, improve ecosystem assessments, and to advance ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. These projects analyze the response of living marine resources to environmental changes, developing ecological and oceanographic indicators and next generation forecasting models for incorporation into stock or ecosystem assessments.
Information on marine ecosystem conditions is critical to sustaining the nation’s marine resources and the many businesses and communities that depend on them. We monitor ecosystem conditions in each region to provide decision-makers with information on current and possible future changes affecting fisheries and protected species. Tracking and reporting on ecosystem condition is critical to effectively preparing for and responding to changing ocean conditions.
Through climate ready conservation, we are taking action to prepare for and respond to impacts of changing climate and oceans on fisheries, protected species, and the many people, businesses and communities that depend on them. Climate ready conservation means enhancing resilience of ecosystems and species to climate-related changes using the best available science to make more informed management decisions.
We invest in the tools and resources communities and businesses need to address the impacts of extreme weather and climate-related hazards, as well as to restore coastal habitats to enhance the resilience of coastal communities that rely on them. NOAA’s Coastal Resilience Grants Program aims to strengthen our economy and provide sustainable and lasting benefits.
Regional fishery management councils develop fishery ecosystem plans to:
Provide a clear description and understanding of the fundamental physical, biological, and human/institutional context of ecosystems within which fisheries are managed.
Direct how that information should be used in the context of fishery management plans.
Set policies that guide development and implementation of fishery management options.
Fishery managers can use fishery ecosystem plans as a metric to help determine whether management effectively incorporates core ecosystem principles. Currently, the following four regional fishery management councils have developed fishery ecosystem plans:
North Pacific Fishery Management Council
Western Pacific Fishery Management Council
Pacific Fishery Management Council
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council
We have been increasing efforts to understand the effect of changing climate and oceans on marine life and to strengthen our capacity to address these effects on the resources for which we are responsible. We have also been working to develop standard approaches for incorporating climate-related information into agency decisions.
Our efforts address two main objectives:
Identify and fill knowledge gaps of how changing climate and oceans affects protected species.
Develop guidance and tools to inform Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act actions in light of anticipated future climate and ocean conditions. Learn more about climate guidance for ESA decisions.