Fisheries & Oceans

Dr. Brad DeYoung began this session with an overview of the sort of changes the ocean is currently seeing. He explained that unlike in the past when the ocean was considered to be so large and vast that it would be largely unchanged, scientists now have come to expect the unexpected. He explored four key aspects of ocean changes - temperature, ice, oxygen, and productivity. Cyr Couturier, Dr. Erin Carruthers, and Dr. Mariano Koen-Alonso joined for a moderated panel discussion and question and answer period with the audience.

Below is a detailed description of this discussion

Watch the recorded session:

Dr. Brad DeYoung 
Honorary research professor and Bartlett Professor of Oceanography, Memorial University
ForecastNL Steering Committee Co-Chair

Cyr Couturier
Aquaculture scientist, Marine Institute

Dr. Erin Carruthers 
Scientist, FFAW

Dr. Mariano Koen-Alonso 
Scientist, DFO

  • The ocean is changing and we need to expect the unexpected: unlike in the past when the ocean was largely considered vast and unchanging, scientists have no come to expect the unexpected – this shift to anticipating changes that would previously seemed unlikely is necessary in all aspects of our relationship to the ocean, from how we utilize it for food and resources such fish, as well as how we live and adapt in coastal areas.

  • Small changes can have big impacts: The ocean ecosystems as sensitive, and even small shifts in the environment (temperature, salinity, etc.) can make a habitat no longer sustainable for some organisms which can have drastic impacts on the ecosystem.

  • Ocean productivity is declining and changing: All the modelling work associated with productivity in the ocean linked to climate change are consistently predicting declines in productivity and biomass in the ocean – this is something we need to prepare for. But changes are not homogeneous, scientists are observing a mismatch between when the food is available and when that food is needed to be consumed by other components on the food web, thus limiting productivity of many stocks. Both fish harvesters and scientists are noting changes in the common species seen here to include other fish that favour warmer temperatures. This all reinforces the need for consistent science to enable us to prepare and be agile in identifying these changes and understanding how those different pieces play together.

  • Climate change impacts for aquaculture are unique: While some of the changes such as ocean temperatures also impact aquaculture, there are other challenges, such as increases in disease, pests and parasites, as well as infrastructure damage from storms, that are more specific to the industry. Farmers, like fish harvesters in the capture fishery, will have to adapt and rely on research and innovation to build a sustainable industry in the face of climate change.

  • Succession planning and human resources: Although the issue of succession planning and human resources for both wild capture fishery and aquaculture is an issue separate from climate change. The challenges that climate change is presenting to both industries have significant implication for the ability to recruit younger people into the industries, as well as recruiting people to take over existing enterprises. Thus, while it is certainly a broader issue, it should be examined in light of the climate change conversation.

  • Ecosystem-based management is necessary: There is a need to shift to a more ecosystem-based management approach that considers species interactions that considers climate change and other important stressors. This is necessary to enable the agility to adapt and take advantages of opportunities.

  • More and better data: Better data and more sharing of the information amongst stakeholders is necessary. This could include shorter term fail-safes for longer term projections on stocks, as well as gathering data directly from fish harvesters. More resources are necessary to increase information sharing – collecting, summarizing and sharing data, as well as having discussions about what it means and what other data is needed to make better decisions.

  • Resources and policies to consider agility and adaptation: With unknown changes expected, resources and policy approaches should consider the need for fish harvesters to be adaptable. Thought and consideration are necessary to how we can plan for an unpredictable future with flexible supports and resources to ensure the industry can be agile.