NOAA fisheries climate science strategy to reduce effects of climate change

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is taking important and bold steps to better manage the nation's fisheries and marine resources by producing the Fisheries Climate Science Strategy. This is a commitment made by the NOAA to create tools and support to better manage the fisheries globally. As the oceans continue to change due to global warming and other factors, marine communities and ecosystems are at risk. Therefore, the NOAA, in partnership with local stakeholders and regional fisheries managers, has begun to develop a plan to reduce the effects of global warming and increase resistance in aquatic organisms. The NOAA hopes to have strategic plans in motion throughout the U.S. by the end of 2016.

According the NOAA, July 2015 was the warmest month ever recorded, which was believed to be driven by warm ocean temperatures. As Eileen Sobeck, the assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries said: "those warm waters – along with rising seas, coastal droughts and ocean acidification – are already putting people, businesses, and communities at risk. With this strategy, we're taking the proactive approach in providing information on current and future conditions to try and reduce the impacts and increase our resilience."

"As oceans change due to global warmings, marine communities and ecosystems are at risk."

The development of the Fisheries Climate Science Strategy by NOAA was to focus on how the changing climate affects living marine resources, ecosystems and the communities that rely on those resources as well as how to respond to the changes in a safe and manageable way. According to the National Resource Defense Council, climate change has already drastically affected many marine organisms, including American lobsters. Commercial lobster fisheries in Connecticut and New York have disappeared because of the increased water temperatures and disease. It has also been theorized that the warm waters in the Northeast is the reason Atlantic cod populations have not recovered. In the last 10 years the Pacific Northwest coastline has also had an increase in acidity, which has caused a drastic decrease in oyster larvae. Water acidity is a growing problem in both marine and freshwater ecosystems, causing many organisms to experience slowed reproduction rates as well as decreases in the size of organisms.

The NOAA fisheries climate science strategy
The Fisheries Climate Science Strategy is a seven-step plan to identify ways to improve or maintain production, delivery and use of climate-related information to support the management of fish stocks, fisheries and protected and endangered species. The strategy also addresses the millions of jobs affected by ocean production, which creates tourism throughout the coastlines in the United States. Overall, the goal of NOAA is to monitor changes in the climate and its effects on aquatic ecosystems and humans to better understand and predict how increasing water temperatures and acidity affects aquatic food webs, including fish, mammal, reptile and invertebrate populations. The strategy also focuses on developing tools that can help stakeholders make decisions about an uncertain future. Including environmenal and water quality consultants with aquatic ecologists will allow government officials to plan out strategies in their local communities that will benefit both humans and aquatic organisms. 

The health of the oceans directly correlates with the health of the planet. The health of the oceans directly correlates with the health of the planet.

The effect of climate change on marine organisms
Approximately 30 to 40 percent of human-produced carbon dioxide ends up in the oceans, lakes and rivers. To maintain chemical equilibrium in the oceans, the carbon dioxide reacts with the water and produces carbonic acid. Many of the carbonic acid molecules continue to react with water-producing carbonate ions and hydronium ions, creating a decrease in pH (increase in acidity).

This increase in ocean acidification is causing many calcifying organisms, such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, corals, and calcareous plankton, to have weakened shells. This causes a dramatic decrease in populations in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Most of these organisms are found at the bottom of the food pyramid and when they are at risk, so is the rest of the food web. Aquaculturists (people who farm aquatic organisms) are also struggling to produce viable amounts of oysters and clams in their controlled fisheries. Ocean acidification is only the first of many emerging global problems caused by climate change. In the last 10 years, the NOAA has studied the long-term effects of ocean acidification, making it impossible to predict the long-term problems that can occur in the marine food chains and the overall structure of marine ecosystems.