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Looking back to go forward: Do past management actions foreshadow management responses to climate change?

This week, the Third International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans takes place in Santos, Brazil, and we are featuring a number of articles throughout the week from speakers at the symposium.
Published: 26 March 2015
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​​​Laura Richards, North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES), Canada, is a plenary speaker in S12: Linking climate change to marine management objectives.

During her talk at the Third International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans, Richards asked how will fisheries management agencies respond to climate change impacts on local or regional resources? She argued that past actions by management agencies can provide insight into future actions.​

This conclusion is drawn from consideration of the work undertaken by some agencies to identify potential impacts, vulnerabilities, and opportunities arising from climate change effects on fisheries and their associated ecosystems. These risks can be high over a medium-term (10-20 year) time horizon.

Fisheries management agencies have significant experience with both abrupt and gradual changes to the availability of harvested resources. Based on specific cases of Canadian salmon and groundfish fisheries, Richards described how a management agency could respond to abrupt short-term changes, for example through fishery closures, or to more gradual changes, such as through standardized operating procedures.

To date, fisheries agencies appear less able to respond to an anticipated (and uncertain) future state when the time horizon is longer than about five years, much less than the time horizon required to address anticipated anthropogenic climate effects.

Consequently, some current management decisions may not be resilient to climate change. Richards suggested opportunities to learn from the past to develop more robust management plans.  These opportunities (Richards presented examples of tested adaptation tools using the Canadian experience) include clear communication products and adaptation tools, along with early engagement and dialogue among resource users, managers and scientists.   

Laura Richards currently chairs ICES sister organization, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). She began her career as a stock assessment scientist and modeler with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and over her career has worked with leading scientists and explored a range of disciplines and approaches. She retired in 2014 after fifteen years as the Science Director for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific coast programs, overseeing fisheries stock assessment, oceanography and aquaculture research, along with the provision of scientific advice required for fishery management. She has represented Canada as Commissioner for the International Pacific Halibut Commission, Committee Co-chair for the Pacific Salmon Commission, and Head of Delegation to PICES. She now applies her experience to her long-term research interest in linking stock assessment with practical fisheries management advice. 

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​Laura Richards, Chair of PICES, addressed the symposium on marine management objectives.

​Contributing authors

Robin M. Brown1, James Christian1, and Jake Rice2

1 Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, British Columbia, Canada

2 Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Looking back to go forward: Do past management actions foreshadow management responses to climate change?

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