AFS Talks Climate Change and Fisheries Policy on Capitol Hill

In Fisheries magazine, September 2013

by Ward Slacum, Versar, Columbia, MD & Lee Benaka, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Office of Science and Technology, Silver Spring, MD 20910. E-mail:

The Potomac Chapter of the American Fisheries Society
(AFS), in conjunction with the AFS External Affairs Committee,
convened a briefing on Climate Change and Fisheries on
May 9, 2013, in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol
Hill. This was the first Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by the
Potomac Chapter since a July 2001 briefing on Aquatic Nuisance
Species and Fisheries.
john boremanThe briefing drew over 40 people, including staffers from
the offices of seven members of Congress, as well as professionals
from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, and
the Center for American Progress. AFS past-president John
Boreman opened the briefing by describing the AFS Climate
Change Policy Statement (AFS 2010). President Boreman also
described the contents of his January 2013 letter to President
Obama regarding climate change.

The briefing included four presentations on a variety of aspects
of climate change and fisheries. Cora Campbell, Commissioner
of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, discussed
how the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has been
taking a precautionary, adaptive management approach in response
to climate change; for example, by approving in 2009
a Fishery Management Plan for Fish Resources of the Arctic
Management Area (Arctic FMP).cora campbell The Arctic FMP (Federal Register
Office 2009) declared that all federal waters of the U.S.
Arctic will be closed to commercial fishing for any species of
finfish, mollusks, crustaceans, and all other forms of marine
animal and plant life. Commissioner Campbell also expressed
concern regarding several recent attempts to list corals and seals
under the Endangered Species Act based on possible future effects
of climate change. According to Commissioner Campbell,
it makes more sense to allocate scarce resources for research
and monitoring rather than for responses to Endangered Species
Act petitions.

Malin Pinsky of Princeton University focused his presentation
on the concept of climate velocity and how fish and fisheries
respond to changing temperatures across seascapes. Ward Slacum and Malin Pinsky of Princeton University According
to Dr. Pinsky, fish stocks shift their distributions at much the
same rate, and in the same direction, as climate velocity. For example,
many species expanded their range northward as waters
warmed. Fisheries usually follow these shifting fish stocks, but
do so more slowly than the rate of the migrating fish. Fisheries
managers can help fishing communities and fish stocks adapt
to these changes by ensuring that fish habitat remains intact,
by setting sustainable fishing quotas, and by incorporating an
ecosystem focus into management measures.

Jon Hare of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center
discussed the need to consider habitat and climate variables in
the science enterprise. Dr. Hare noted that climate is variable
and also changing in the Northeast, and impacts to fisheries will
occur causing “winners” (e.g., Atlantic Croaker) and “losers”
(Atlantic Cod) as species abundance and distributions shift to
adapt to warming ocean temperatures Dr. Hare concluded that
the current scientific enterprise should be augmented by adding
climate variables, reaching out to management and stakeholders,
and completing climate vulnerability analysis to evaluate
biological productivity and fishery sustainability in the context
of future environmental conditions.

capitol hill
The final presenter, Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe of
California, discussed the cultural effects of climate change on
his fisheries-dependent tribe. Mr. Hillman described the threats
to fisheries in the Klamath River basin, including mining, commercial
fishing, irrigated agriculture, mismanaged landscapes,
and dams that restrict fish from colder waters as available river
and stream waters warm due to climate change. As fish have
become less available, members of the tribe have been less able
to pass down fishing traditions and have experienced higher
rates of heart disease and diabetes. Mr. Hillman recommended
increasing river flows, improving habitat, and increasing access
to coldwater refugia as solutions to his tribe’s climate change

john hare noaa This successful Capitol Hill briefing showcased the AFS
Potomac Chapter’s ability to facilitate the communication of
AFS messages to leaders in Washington, D.C. The AFS planned
this meeting in conjunction with the NOAA Fisheries’ Managing
our Nation’s Fisheries III conference, which saved travel
expenses for some speakers during this time of tight travel budgets.
Photo of Leaf Hillman Karuk Tribe of CaliforniaThe National Sea Grant College Program’s Knauss Fellows,
some of whom serve in offices of Capitol Hill, were also
important to this briefing’s success through securing a meeting
room and publicizing the briefing. The AFS Potomac Chapter
looks forward to continuing to help the AFS communicate its
positions and value to members of Congress and other leaders
in Washington, D.C.

AFS (American Fisheries Society). 2010. Policy statement on climate
change. Available:
policy_33f.pdf. (June 2013).
Federal Register Office. 2009. Fisheries of the United States Exclusive
Economic Zone off Alaska; Fisheries of the Arctic Management
Area; Bering Sea Subarea, Final Rule. 74 Federal Register 211
(November 3, 2009), pp. 56734–56746.

Fisheries • Vol 38 No 9 • September 2013• pp. 393-394

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