National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries released a draft climate science action plan for the southeastern Bering Sea that includes a plan to assess the relative vulnerability of 18 commercially important fish species considering expected changes in climate and ocean conditions. The NOAA Fisheries Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment Methodology was developed in collaboration with the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research – Earth System Research Laboratory. The assessment uses information on species life history characteristics, species distributions and projected future climate and ocean conditions to estimate the relative vulnerability of fish species to changes in abundance (and to some extent distribution). The Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment is specifically designed to help:

  1. Identify which species or stocks may be most vulnerable with changing climate and ocean conditions;
  2. Identify what additional information is needed to understand and address these risks;
  3. Provide a basis for considering what actions might be taken to reduce fish species vulnerability;
  4. Identify where more information is needed to understand, track, and respond to fish species vulnerability; that information can then be used to help prioritize research, monitoring and modeling efforts.

Scientists will be able to use the results to prioritize and identify research gaps, and managers can use the results to identify and respond to potential climate change impacts to fish stocks, fisheries and fishing communities. The methodology is only relevant for fish and invertebrate species; NOAA Fisheries is currently developing a similar vulnerability assessment that will be applicable to marine mammals and sea turtles.