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International Workshop on Climate and Oceanic Fisheries

Rarotonga, Cook Islands
3-5 October 2011

Announcement | Background |Specific Objectives | Expected Outcomes | Co-sponsors

Programme and Abstracts | Presentations | List of Particpants

Workshop Overview

This workshop is jointly sponsored and organised by WMO, the Government of the Cook Islands, APN, NOAA, the University of Auckland, the Australian Government (through CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and AusAID) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. The backgroundspecific objectives and expected outcomes are listed below.


Fisheries play a crucial role in providing food security and opportunities to earn income, particularly in developing countries. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), fish comprises about 20 percent of the animal protein in the diets of over 2.8 billion people. The contribution of fish to dietary animal protein can reach 50 percent in the world’s poorest regions, and up to 90 percent in small island developing states (SIDS). The FAO concluded in 2008 that this important role of fisheries is threatened by changes to the environment associated with increased emissions of greenhouse gases, including higher water temperatures, increases in ocean acidification and changes in storm surges due to altered cyclone patterns.

Fish populations are projected to respond to such variations in different ways. As we have seen from changes in the distribution patterns of migratory fishes associated with the interannual or El Niño-scale variation in the ocean environment, climate change can be expected to affect the reproduction, recruitment and growth of oceanic fish species. Climate change may also have other impacts, including cyclic changes in the production level of marine ecosystems in ways that may favour one species or group over another.

There is an urgent need to improve our ability to assess the likely consequences of climate change for oceanic fisheries. Long-term records of the abundance for most species are limited to historical commercial and recreational landings. This makes climate related trends in fish abundance difficult to detect. Most studies of ocean climate and fish abundance have been on interannual time scales, investigating potential relationships with climatic cycles such as El Niño and La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 4th Assessment Report also concluded that climate change and variability is likely to modify the productivity and distribution of oceanic fisheries, with unpredictable consequences. In particular, the productivity of colder water species may be reduced in subtropical waters and the distribution of spawning areas and fisheries may be affected – such species are unlikely to be able to extend their ranges further southward towards the poles due to the lack of suitable habitat. On the other hand, the productivity of warmer water species may be enhanced in subtropical waters and distribution of more tropical species may expand southward.

Increasing climate variability will make fisheries management, and the forecasts of fisheries production, more challenging. A better understanding of climate and its impacts on oceanic fisheries is critical to the future management of these valuable resources for subsistence and market-based economies, and cultures. Developing countries and SIDS that depend heavily on fish for food and exports will also need special assistance in adapting to the effects of climate change on their oceanic fisheries.

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Specific Workshop Objectives

  • To review the current understanding and status of marine and oceanic climate and climate variability, in particular in the South Pacific;

  • To review the effects of climate and climate variability on seasonal to decadal time scales on oceanic fisheries, including through an evaluation of available historical data on marine climate and oceanic fish abundance;

  • To evaluate of the impact of 21st century climate change on oceanic fisheries;

  • To identify fisheries risk assessment or management evaluation tools that incorporate climate variability in order to improve the sustainable management of oceanic fisheries;

  • To evaluate the implications of climate change for plans to optimise the use of oceanic fish for food security, livelihoods and economic growth; and evaluate the potential use of fish abundance data for climate change research;

  • To recommend the adaptation and management measures needed to maintain oceanic fisheries in the face of climate change.

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Expected Workshop Outcomes

Senior experts in the field will be invited to prepare state-of-the-art discussion papers to address the above objectives, while contributions from other experts will also be sought to further elaborate the key issues. All the participants (including invited experts and fisheries managers from the Pacific region) will be engaged in order to develop appropriate recommendations for all organizations involved in oceanic fisheries and fisheries research. Proceedings of the Workshop will be published in a special issue of a scientific journal and will be widely distributed to enhance the management of oceanic fisheries in the face of climate change.

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Opening Session

Session 1: Effects of climate variability, from seasonal to decadal time scales

Session 2: Historical ocean climate and fisheries data

Session 3: Impacts of climate change on oceanic fisheries

Session 4: Impacts of 21st century climate on fisheries

Session 5: Management tools to improve sustainable fisheries

Session 6: Adapting to the impacts of climate change on fisheries

Session 7: Climate tools to assess vulnerability and for fisheries adaptation

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Workshop Co-Sponsors 



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