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Highlights of the Pacific Islands Regional Action Plan for Climate Science, Part I

By Staff | Mar 30, 2017

The Pacific Islands are expected to see increased ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, increased ocean acidity, lower ocean productivity and changes in ocean currents, weather patterns and extreme weather.

Many of these changes have already been observed and are projected to intensify further. Ecosystems and communities will be impacted by these changes in many ways.

Decision-makers need information on the timing, nature and magnitude of climate-related impacts to this region’s valuable marine resources.

What’s at risk?

Coral reef ecosystems are being stressed by both increasing ocean temperatures and increasing ocean acidification. Loss of coral reef habitat negatively impacts both coral reef ecosystems and the humans who depend on them.

Low islands in the region are facing rising sea levels, resulting in the loss of coastal habitat for humans as well as sea turtles, sea birds and monk seals. Rising sea levels are also resulting in saltwater intrusion, threatening freshwater and agriculture.

Climate change is projected to reduce the Hawaii-based longline fishery’s yield by up to 50 percent by the end of the century, resulting in a loss of food and economic resources.

The Pacific Islands seafood industry plays an essential role in the U.S. economy. Statistics from “Fisheries Economics of the United States,” 2014, had landings at 33 million pounds, landings revenue at $101 million, sales impacts at $743 million, and 9,546 jobs.

The Pacific Islands Regional Action Plan identifies key needs and actions over the next five years to implement the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Climate Science Strategy in this region.

The strategy identifies seven key information needs to fulfill NOAA Fisheries’ mandates for fisheries management and protected species conservation in a changing climate.

Here are the recommended actions by objective.

Objective 1: Identify climate-informed reference points; incorporate climate data into bottomfish and billfish stock assessments; begin incorporating climate impacts in coral reef annual catch limits; and more fully address climate impacts on fishery and protected species reference points.

Objective 2: Create robust management strategies for a changing climate; conduct management strategy evaluations to identify strategies that are robust under climate change scenarios; and incorporate climate information into Fishery Ecosystem Plans.

Objective 3: Incorporate adaptive decision processes; design adaptive decision processes for management; and incorporate climate information into management designations of protected species critical habitat and recovery planning.

Objective 4: Project future conditions; describe projected oceanographic impacts from climate change; conduct coral reef and fish vulnerability assessments; and project impacts of climate change on fishery yield, ecosystem structure and fishing communities.