Rapidly Changing Arctic Fisheries Potential Requires Comprehensive Management

In an era defined by unmitigated climate change, a study found that fisheries in the Arctic could net 37 times more fish than current annual catch amounts by the end of the century. Researchers warn that along with these increasingly favourable conditions, proper steps must be taken to ensure species and ecosystem sustainability, and to consider food security implications for local communities. UBC researchers Travis C. Tai, a post-doctoral researcher at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and Rashid Sumaila, professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, shed light on this issue using an integrated modeling approach to estimate the potential of commercial fisheries across Canada’s Arctic.

In their recent study published in Marine Policy, it was found that the potential amount of fish that could be caught sustainably is much greater than currently reported catches due to record ice melt and warming ocean temperatures in southern regions. Today, marine capture fisheries in Canada’s Arctic are small relative to other regions in the country, but the development of commercial fisheries are on the rise. This study highlights the effects of climate change on current and future species distribution and emphasizes the need to effectively assess and address the impacts it has in several areas, including marine mammal populations, Arctic ecosystems, and subsistence fishing for Inuit communities.

Professor Sumaila says that the aim of the study was to gauge “the current and long-term potential of commercial Arctic fisheries in Canada with regards to its contribution to food security and the economy, even in regions that already have substantial commercial catches, such as Baffin Bay.”

This study was conducted with support from OceanCanada, a partnership supported by the Social Sciences and Humanity Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Marine Affairs Program, the Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Learn more about their study here!