Using a Precautionary Approach to Manage North Pacific Fisheries Under Uncertainty


By Rachel M. Gregg

There are many projects that target specific climate impacts like sea level rise, increased storm surges, and habitat loss. There are also projects that aim to limit or eliminate non-climate stressors, such as destructive fishing practices, overfishing, pollution, diseases, invasive species, and others. The cumulative effects of these stressors interact directly with climate change and will impair ecosystem resilience. For example, temperature, pH, and salinity all influence the toxicity of various chemicals and will all be affected by climate change; for example, increased water temperatures can influence photosynthesis rates of plants and metabolic rates of animals and decrease dissolved oxygen levels which may lead to hypoxic conditions. 

Examples of this strategy include reducing land-based pollution to limit coral bleaching, incorporating climate change scenarios into fisheries management to adjust for shifts in species’ ranges, and reducing activities that alter natural sediment fluxes to limit erosion. For instance, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is authorized to manage fisheries within Alaska's state waters, including the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The Council has adopted a precautionary approach to commercial fishing activities in the region and has established limits to minimize bycatch, seasonal restrictions, and gear requirements to diminish negative effects on mammals, birds, and habitat. The Council has also created protected areas to protect fragile habitats like deep sea corals.