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ICES Journal of Marine Science (2011), 68(6), 1368–1372. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsr086
Summing up Sendai: progress integrating climate change science
and fisheries
Steven A. Murawski
College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, 140 Seventh Avenue MSL 118, St Petersburg, FL 33741, USA; tel: +1 727 553 3367;
fax: +1 727 553 1189; e-mail: [email protected]
Murawski, S. A. 2011. Summing up Sendai: progress integrating climate change science and fisheries. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 68:
1368 –1372.
An impressive and increasingly complete record including
the papers, posters, and discussions presented at the Sendai
Conference demonstrate that productivity, spatial distribution,
phenology, and human dimensions of fisheries are highly climatedependent, and thus at significant risk in climate change scenarios
(Parry et al., 2007). Not all such effects are necessarily negative
from a human-centric point of view, but all create uncertainty
in how society will adapt.
My assignment from the Sendai Conference organizers was
to listen, discuss, debate, and provide, at conference end, some
thoughts on what was learned and what we need to learn regarding
climate and fisheries. At the final session, these few thoughts were
presented on what appears we are doing well, what work is in progress, and where we need to go. Thanks to the many colleagues
who contributed to these opinions.
The impacts of climate variability and change have long been
appreciated by fishery scientists. By the 1930s, a great schism
developed in the community of fishery scientists and biological
oceanographers, pitting those who thought that control of fish
populations was primarily due to the effects fishing, and thus
“top-down”, and those who thought that fisheries were controlled
primarily by physical oceanography and lower trophic level productivity, e.g. “bottom-up” control. The so-called Thompson –
Burkenroad debates (Smith, 1994) helped fuel a bifurcation in
science approaches to understanding fishery populations that is
only now being bridged. Multidisciplinary science programmes,
such as GLOBEC, Cod and Climate, NEMURO, and others,
have done much to affect this “rapprochement”, facilitating a
more integrated approach to understanding the dynamics of
marine populations.
Control of overfishing has emerged as a global priority for food
security and biodiversity protection (e.g. Worm et al., 2009). As
well, understanding the impacts of changing temperature
regimes, current systems, basin-scale oscillatory phenomena, sea
ice loss, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and freshwater flows
have emerged as priorities, as the science on display at Sendai
has demonstrated. It is clear that ending overfishing and rebuilding natural populations to support sustainable, productive fisheries is priority one for resource management. Strengthening
fishery populations through effective management will, de facto,
make these populations more resilient to perturbations from
factors such as climate variability and change. But how will the
benefits of more effective fishery management be manifested: to
whom, where, and at what levels; how will climate change alter
these balances? The emerging consensus from Sendai and previous
symposia is that cooperation among biological oceanographers,
fishery biologists, ecologists, and social scientists is essential to
appreciate the combined impacts and implications of overfishing
and climate change and variability required to support a more holistic ecosystem approach to fisheries management.
The Sendai Conference builds on the legacy of earlier conferences that emphasized links between climate, oceans, and fisheries
at a global scale. Prior conferences have primarily not had a global
focus however, but instead dealt with specific regions, species
groups, or other subsets of the climate change and fisheries conundrum (e.g. Beamish, 1995; McGinn, 2002; Kruse et al., 2008). Two
years before Sendai, the Gijón (Spain) conference was the venue
for perhaps the most comprehensive climate-oceans focus ever
held (Valdés et al., 2009). The Gijón conference emphasized that
CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are already affecting
the world’s oceans and biota, that observing systems to monitor
these changes are very incomplete, and that marine scientists
need to focus on climate forcing impacts on ecosystem structure,
biodiversity, and fisheries’, species’, and society’s adaptive capacity
(Valdés et al., 2009). Just after Sendai, OECD (2010) sponsored a
workshop on “Economics of Adapting Fisheries to Climate
Change”, in Busan, Korea. That workshop emphasized governance
issues, international agreements, the role of aquaculture as part of
an adaptation strategy, capacity development, and knowledge
transfer to the developing world and mitigation strategies.
Some conclusions from Sendai . . . and beyond
Below are a few observations motivated by the formal presentations, posters, and discussions at Sendai.
† Overall, the scientific community seems well on track, emphasizing the importance of linking in an “end-to-end” fashion
atmospheric and oceanographic processes driven by GHG
increases, and impacts on species, and dependent human communities (e.g. climate-to-fish-to-fisheries models discussed by
Kenny Rose and colleagues). Fisheries is a coastal sector with
# 2011 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Published by Oxford Journals. All rights reserved.
For Permissions, please email: [email protected]
Summing up Sendai
much current focus on climate-forced impacts and outcomes
and the potential for such impacts are one of the major “so
what?” justifications for understanding climate effects more
† Coupled models, with nested atmosphere, land, ocean, and
some biological components are now a reality and skill is
improving quickly (e.g. Gnanadesikan et al., 2011). There is
growing interest in an earth systems modelling (ESM) approach
to climate effects but there is a difficulty evaluating higher
trophic levels (inconsistent and incomplete data) and social,
economic, and behavioural mechanisms within such models
because data are generally lacking, and there are few appropriate
quantitative approaches to behavioural quantification. Much of
the world’s fish production comes from shelf seas and inshore
areas, where models have trouble resolving boundary conditions and complex oceanography, fronts etc. Nested models
that couple both regional downscaling (atmospheric models
linked to regional terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems) and
upscaling (e.g. high-resolution oceanographic models nested
into lower-resolution atmospheric models) are an exciting
development, as outlined by Enrique Curchitser, Jason Holt,
and their colleagues at the Symposium (Holt et al., 2009).
† With respect to downscaling, widely varying regional expertise
has created a “cottage industry” of methods and approaches,
with no global standardization. Therefore, comparisons
among regions are difficult in the situation where disparate
methods for projecting regional to local climate effects are
used. More consistent global frameworks are urgently needed.
† Except for ocean physics and perhaps phytoplankton production, we do not have a global view of climate impacts—
instead, we are left to interpret a mosaic of regional analyses
biased by location, and especially emphasizing regions of the
developed world. Ocean colour is the only synoptic global
oceanic biological parameter and it is highly threatened as a
long-term time-series. For example, the SeaWiFS satellite
instrument (operational beginning in February 1997) ceased
data collection due to a terminal failure in December 2010.
This 13+ years time-series allowed a number of pivotal
studies of the links between climate variation and primary productivity (e.g. Polovina et al., 2008; Vantrepotte and Mélin,
2009). Although there are a number of current and planned satellites obtaining ocean colour data, there is no consistent
calibration-validation scheme to link data from various ocean
colour instruments, or any agreement to continue the synoptic
collection of this vital indicator of biological productivity in the
† Despite the availability of over a decade of consistent ocean
colour observations, it remains difficult to answer the even
most basic question for biology—will global ocean primary
production rise or fall as a result of the combined effects of
ocean acidification, ocean warming, mixed-layer depth shoaling
(see the symposium contribution by Jang et al., 2011), nutrient
flux, and other oceanographic phenomena? Some results for
open ocean basins indicate modest declines in low productivity
basins (Polovina et al., 2008)—if so, these will be directly linked
to changes in fish production.
† Most studies to date of the effects of climate change on fish
stocks have operated on a species-by-species basis. Given the
differential impacts of climate variation and trend on species
and trophic levels, the lack of species interactions in such
studies is a glaring weakness. Integrating trophic dynamics
through the use of foodweb analyses, size (length)-based
methods, and other techniques is not only a priority (Barange
et al., 2010; Botsford et al., 2011), but, as emphasized by Julia
Blanchard in her talk, a feasible path forward.
† The mosaic of regional studies on climate effects on fisheries
discussed here and previously is heavily skewed to the wellstudied North Atlantic, North Pacific, southern African, and a
few other locations globally. One novel approach is to use
climate–ocean models to identify climate “hotspots” (no pun
intended) and to focus attention on them as sentinels of
climate impacts (as proposed by Gretta Pecl, Alistair Hobday,
and collaborators). Two obvious issues are: how do we mobilize
observing systems and research to some of the identified
locations heretofore not well studied, and what of other
global locations that may not exhibit extreme temperature rise
(i.e. 4+8C rise in temperatures) but are nonetheless vulnerable
to the totality of climate-induced factors (Figure 1)?
† Climate, fishing, nutrient enrichment, habitat loss, ocean acidification, and other issues are confounded by both additive and
especially multiplicative factors and interactions (Figure 1).
Understanding these “knock-on” effects is of critical interest
to society, but this cannot be done sequentially. Therefore, we
need a holistic approach to these analytical issues and nested
ESMs, with fisheries and social sciences in submodels are an
obvious path forward. Development of fully coupled naturalsocial science models is needed to understand the synergistic
effects of climate forcing and socio-economic forces if we are
to understand the viability of adaptation strategies (Barange
et al., 2010; Fulton, 2011).
† Fishing is just one of a number of coastal issues (including
coastal development, shipping, energy exploration and production, coastal recreation, aquaculture, and other uses) threatened by climate change. Fisheries and living marine resource
Figure 1. Schematic GHG enrichment impacts on the resilience of
coastal ecosystems and communities and fisheries that support
them. This diagram emphasizes a number of key outcomes and
uncertainties from the Sendai conference. Several of these potential
topics have yet to be adequately evaluated, including the impacts of
sea level rise and habitat loss on estuarine fisheries, ocean
acidification impacts on estuarine and oceanic fisheries, and
especially the interactions of fisheries and other coastal sectors on
human dimension outcomes in coastal communities.
management are highly co-dependent on outcomes for these
parallel sectors, which in turn affect the viability of human communities in which they exist. Just as we have emphasized the
necessity of coupled biophysical models to interpret climate
effects, coupled multi-sectoral models are needed to understand
ecosystem and community effects arising from a variety of
human-centric perspectives (e.g. Merino et al., 2010; Rice and
Garcia, 2011).
† There is considerable focus on some climate-related effects on
fisheries, but emphasis heretofore is very uneven (Figure 1).
Warming impacts attributable to elevated GHGs are best
described for species production, phenology, and distribution.
In particular, these have been described primarily for ocean
fisheries, in select locations. However, in particular, coastal
and estuarine-dependent fishery populations have not received
commensurate attention. The relationships between sea level
rise, loss of coastal habitats, displacement of coastal society,
and interactions with other sectors are poorly described in
work to date, as are the relationships of sea level rise to continental glacier melt. If we want an integrated approach to understanding the global implications of climate change on fisheries,
identifying priorities, and coordinating various independent
investigations to achieve an ESM approach should be a focal
† Latitudinal responses in biodiversity, phenology, and productivity of species and ecosystems to changing climate
appear inverse to the adaptive capacity of society to deal with
them (Figure 2). These concepts were emphasized by Rashid
Sumaila, William Cheung, Edward Allison, Jake Rice, Ian
Perry, and others at Sendai. Access to science and adaptation
resources thus contribute to the environmental justice issues
and challenge the ability of civil society to re-balance the
benefits and costs of adapting to an ever more hot, flat,
crowded (Friedman, 2009), and acidic future. (Figure 2).
S. A. Murawski
† The term “attribution” has two different meanings when used
in the context of the domains of climate change research and
fisheries. In the former, attribution usually means detecting a
long-term climate signal attributable to human activities, given
the inherent variability (at different scales) in climate data
(Hegerl et al., 2006). In the fisheries context, as previously discussed, the issue is the impacts of fishing as a “top-down” controller of populations in contrast to “bottom-up” forcing from
climate signals. Given that we are now trying to deconvolve
both the fishing effects and the human-induced climate signal
affecting marine populations, we need to re-define the attribution question as multiple human-induced signals in combination
vs. climate variability (Fulton, 2011; Plagányi et al., 2011; Zhang
et al., 2011). Understanding relative strengths of the two humanderived drivers represents the singularly important issue from the
perspective of climate-fisheries research.
† We need some additional methodological work on consistent
testing for attributable biological outcomes from climate
forcing, which may be non-linear, abrupt (Collie et al., 2004),
and under time-dependent multivariate control; and especially
methods for predicting critical transitions (Scheffer et al., 2009).
† More than in most domains, human metrics are now a part of
the observing system for fisheries. This is because of the economic and regulatory environment in which fisheries operate.
Discussions at Sendai reinforced the importance of collaborative relationships in understanding varying perspectives on
climate impacts and risk tolerances to unknown drivers. Talks
by Renato Silvano, Maria Gusalla, and their colleagues highlighted the importance of local environmental knowledge and
the developing science of ethno-oceanography as valid and
important to a variety of diverse stakeholders. The use of facilitated scenario building illustrated how through a formal process
of engagement scientists can explore diverse perceptions and
increase communication among various societal groups (e.g.
the “fried fish” scenario of strong global warming and the
perception of “bad” climate outcomes for fishers, in the talk
presented by Marie-Caroline Badjeck, and in the paper of
Ianelli et al., 2011).
† The concept of “winners” and “losers” is widely acknowledged
(e.g. Fulton, 2011) but most of the specific studies reviewed at
Sendai and elsewhere in the literature focus primarily on
losers. As with terrestrial outcomes in climate change, productivity regimes will likely shift poleward, with range extensions and other outcomes that may have positive economic
benefits for some. We need to be intellectually honest and
acknowledge where productivity will increase, and also
acknowledge changes in phenology which will have unpredictable impacts for ecosystems of interacting species.
Figure 2. Several presenters at the Sendai conference emphasized
that global change will likely result in distributional impacts on
biodiversity and productivity emphasizing poleward shifts in the
distribution of species and changes in ecosystem productivity.
Importantly, looking at global income distribution, human
communities closest to the equator may be the least equipped to
deal with adaptations to changes realized in global fisheries and
ecosystems; likewise Arctic societies may be less likely to cope.
† In the AR4 round of IPCC assessments (Parry et al., 2007),
Working Group II analysed about 28 000 ecological datasets;
0.3% of which were marine-derived (a point emphasized by
Elvira Poloczanska and co-authors at Sendai). Marine studies
represent some of the world’s longest, most comprehensive
and most important monitoring series for physical, chemical,
and especially biological, phenomena. Given the importance
of the oceans as impacted by warming and acidification, it is
critical for our (fisheries) community to better represent
impacts in the marine realm in the AR5 round of the next
IPCC assessment. We need to find ways to combine, analyse,
Summing up Sendai
document, and archive the totality of the marine fisheries
record, much of which has been collected for uses other than
interpreting climate change (e.g. natural resource management). An analytical paradigm for comparative studies that
allows combining and interpreting the disparate datasets collected regionally should be a priority.
† In offering advice to fisheries managers, the broader management community and the public, some attention needs to be
paid to our lexicon. There are multiple ways of describing the
retrospective analysis of climate and fisheries as a basis for prognostication. Some of these include: forecasting (e.g. it is going
to rain today with x% probability), predictions (specific outcomes will happen), projections (conditioned on a set of
specific assumptions about management), scenarios (in a
social-behavioural context), assessments (conditioned projections combined with retrospective understanding), and advice
(mitigation vs. adaptation). Part of the difficulty is in describing
climate, and likely fisheries effects are the time-scales over
which such advice is offered. Fisheries traditionally employ
two time-frames, with both tactical (year or two ahead TACs,
etc.) and to a lesser extent strategic or “equilibrium” long-term
average advice” (e.g. yield-per-recruit and multispecies effects).
In contrast, climate advice is primarily offered for strategic
decision-making (e.g. GHG targets, sea level rise rates). If fisheries decision-makers are primarily focused on short-term
advice (e.g. ending overfishing and achieving MSYs as per commitments at the World Summit on Sustainable development)
but climate managers’ focus is on the long term, how can we
hope to gain support for appropriate mitigation measures for
fisheries, given likely climate scenarios (OECD, 2010)? Part of
the solution to this time-scale problem lies in better communicating the climate-fisheries impacts of actions (or inaction) to
be taken in both arenas.
† The ecosystem approach to fisheries (or alternatively ecosystembased management) is likely the only way to simultaneously
understand and help society manage these complex issues, so
there needs to be additional support for integrated science
that serves all these needs.
Final thoughts
At the beginning of the conference, convener Anne Hollowed
I hope that this Symposium will be viewed as the turning
point at which the fisheries community became engaged
[in climate change issues].
History will, of course, judge the prescience of her statement.
Importantly, Sendai was neither a conference on fisheries nor
one on physical oceanography and climate science. It was the
union and intersection of these disciplines. To make real progress
on the many questions that have arisen and that will emerge,
new commitments to truly interdisciplinary studies—from
climate-to-fish-to-fisheries—need to be forged. They need to be
international, intragency, and interscholastic and to bridge the
government-private enterprise tensions that arise in regulated
Sendai was much more than concurrent sessions regarding fisheries and oceanography; the essential linkages and integration
necessary to appreciate the fullest extent of what was required to
bridge the two disciplines were explored in depth. There was a
palpable sense of the global magnitude of the issues of climate
and fisheries that transcend particular regional outcomes. But
Sendai can only be the first chapter. What we need is the ability
to organize global information into a coherent informatic
system, to periodically network among the elements of our
science community to forge new linkages, to describe progress,
and to create opportunities for new and imaginative studies.
Sendai was jointly sponsored by three major international
science entities (ICES, PICES, and FAO) as well as tens of other
government agencies, partnerships, and foundations. The partnership has to continue, expand, and take responsibility where there is
no obvious existing governance institution (formal or informal)
currently in place. We simply cannot assume that the critical
climate change outcomes in fisheries will be sufficiently well
articulated by institutions such as the IPCC that have so much
on their plate. Sendai will be a turning point in climate and fisheries only if we all do our best to make it so.
Many thanks to the symposium conveners: Anne Hollowed,
Manuel Barange, Shin-ichi Ito, Suam Kim, and Harald Loeng
for inviting this contribution and to the speakers, poster presenters, and participants in the meeting for their many contributions
furthering the goal of understanding climate change scenarios for
global fisheries. This contribution is dedicated to the memory of
our late colleague Bern Megrey who made many important contributions in climate and fisheries and to the citizens of Sendai and
the Miyagi Prefecture who graciously hosted our symposium
and who subsequently suffered devastating losses as a result of
the earthquake and tsunami.
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