Climate and Communities Initiative

The California Current Ecosystem (which extends from the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula up to waters off Vancouver Island) supports the economies and social fabric of at least 125 communities in California, Oregon and Washington. As fish populations and the ecosystems that sustain them change in response to climate shifts, there may be profound consequences for the fisheries and the communities that they support.

A coastal scene with blue water, large rocks, and coastal mountains.
The Oregon coast. Photo: Shutterstock/Galyna Andrushko.

This ecosystem is affected by “normal” multi-year and multi-decade climate variability that has major effects on fisheries productivity. In addition, with climate change, there will be changes to temperature, ocean surface water pH (acidity versus alkalinity), and deep-water oxygen. Other changes are less predictable but also likely, such as changes in upwelling, seasonal timing, and changes in the frequency and intensity of El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

At its September 2017 meeting, the Council decided to embark on the Climate and Communities Initiative pursuant to its Fishery Ecosystem Plan. The purpose of this initiative is to help the Council, its advisory bodies, and the public to better understand the effects of near-term climate shift and long-term climate change on our fish, fisheries, and fishing communities and identify ways in which the Council could incorporate such understanding into its decision making.

Under this initiative, the Council is exploring the longer-term effects of climate change on its managed species. While individual fishery management plans will likely examine the impacts of climate change on particular species, this initiative focuses on the combined, long-term effects of changes on multiple species across all management plans.

Climate change scenario planning

April-September 2020

Between April and July 2020 the CCCT fleshed out the underlying conditions of each of the four scenarios developed at the January workshop and engaged with the Council’s advisory bodies to add details to the scenarios, including the development of examples for key species within and across the Council’s four fishery management plans. (The CCCT reported progress on these efforts in June 2020).

A final draft of the scenario descriptions was submitted for Council review at its September 2020 meeting.

The next stage of the scenario planning exercise involves a series of online workshops that identify the implications and actions that follow from the scenarios. Four regional workshops would be conducted with 20-30 people recruited from each geographic region to participate. A proposal describing these workshops was submitted for Council review at their September 2020 meeting

March 2019-March 2020

In March 2019 the Council formed the Climate and Communities Core Team (Ad Hoc CCCT) to manage a scenario planning exercise on the topic of shifting stock availability (including shifting distribution) across species, fishery management plans, and communities. The Council expects this exercise to result in the definition of tools, products, and processes necessary to react to potential future ecosystem states resulting from climate variability and climate change.

In January 2020 the Council and The Nature Conservancy jointly sponsored a workshop to develop alternative narratives (called scenarios) about what west coast fishing communities might look like in 2040 based on summaries of forces that may drive change to 2040. Over 80 scientific experts, fishery experts, and stakeholders participated in the workshop (see workshop speaker and panelist biographies). Results were reported to the Council in March 2020.

Climate and Communities Initiative Workshop sponsored by The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy hosted a Climate and Communities Initiative Workshop  in Portland Oregon, May 15-16, 2018. The  goals of the workshop were to provide an opportunity for managers, scientists, and stakeholders to provide input into the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s development of a climate and communities initiative.

Workshop report (included in the September 2018 Briefing Book).

Webinar series on climate and communities

In early 2018 the Council’s Ecosystem Workgroup, working with scientists at National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers, organized the following webinars to present information relevant to this initiative. These webinars help to educate the Council, advisory bodies, and the interested public about current research and forecasts related to the effects of climate variability/change on the California Current Ecosystem.

Recent Council meeting briefing materials for this initiative