Americans are at odds over the effect of climate change on their fisheries, with the Biden administration suggesting large parts of the fishery may soon be off-limits to both recreational and commercial fishing to allow stock and habitat rebuild.
It is a situation faced by many fisheries world-wide, including New Zealand as political and community groups grapple with the issues and the best way to deal with them.
Efforts by the American scientific body, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to address climate change in fisheries have met with opposition, with some industry leaders saying climate change doesn’t exist in the ocean.
The feedback came in a conference call that was part of a plan by the NOAA to make the USA’s fisheries more resilient to decline.
President Biden has made it clear that ‘the climate crisis’ is high on his agenda and has ordered the Administration to collect information about increasing the resilience of fisheries as part of his plan to protect 30% of US oceans by 2030.
“Fisheries, protected resources, habitats and ecosystems are being affected by climate change,” said acting NOAA fisheries head Paul Doremus at the beginning of the conference call. ‘Climate change and fisheries is a very large and urgent topic.”
But fishery industry representatives fear that the NOAA will put large areas of the ocean off limits to both recreational and commercial fishing, with Biden’s 30×30 plan causing particular concern.
Jeff Kaelin, Director of Sustainability and Government Relations at Lund’s Fisheries, New Jersey, said he didn’t believe there was a climate crisis. “We’ve been adapting for many years to ocean changes.”
And Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, said recreational fishers and boaters are ‘America’s original conservationists’ with a ‘long history’ of championing marine conservation including habitat restoration and ending overfishing.
Closing fisheries could increase carbon emissions by forcing fishing vessels to spend more time searching for fish stocks, said Dennis Moran, President of Fishermen’s Finest of Alaska. ‘We know from history that broad area closures increase the carbon footprint, because boats have to spend more time looking for fish,” he said.
Other fishermen callers said they don’t believe the climate is changing and that Biden’s efforts are driven entirely by politics, reported Energy and Environment News.
However, some environmental advocates applauded NOAA’s effort to address climate change and urged increased study of its effects on fishing stocks and fish migration.
“We are at a critical moment for fisheries. Climate change is challenging every aspect of fishery management,” said Meredith Moore, Director of the Fish Conservation Programme at the environmental group, Ocean Conservancy.
“The Biden administration must recommit to sustainable management of stock, ending overfishing and rebuilding our fisheries.” – Mel Bagnall, Angling International
Some American groups fear closing large parts of their fisheries will only increase the commercial industry’s carbon footprint as they burn more fuel searching for fish.
11 April 2021