Ocean acidification may aggravate social-ecological trade-offs in coastal fisheries

Ocean Acidification (OA) will influence marine ecosystems by changing species abundance and composition. Major effects are described for calcifying organisms, which are significantly impacted by decreasing pH values. Direct effects on commercially important fish are less well studied. The early life stages of fish populations often lack internal regulatory mechanisms to withstand the effects of abnormal pH. Negative effects can be expected on growth, survival, and recruitment success. Here we study Norwegian coastal cod, one of the few stocks where such a negative effect was experimentally quantified, and develop a framework for coupling experimental data on OA effects to ecological-economic fisheries models. In this paper, we scale the observed physiological responses to the population level by using the experimentally determined mortality rates as part of the stock-recruitment relationship. We then use an ecological-economic optimization model, to explore the potential effect of rising CO2 concentration on ecological (stock size), economic (profits), consumer-related (harvest) and social (employment) indicators, with scenarios ranging from present day conditions up to extreme acidification. Under the assumptions of our model, yields and profits could largely be maintained under moderate OA by adapting future fishing mortality (and related effort) to changes owing to altered pH. This adaptation comes at the costs of reduced stock size and employment, however. Explicitly visualizing these ecological, economic and social tradeoffs will help in defining realistic future objectives. Our results can be generalized to any stressor (or stressor combination), which is decreasing recruitment success. The main findings of an aggravation of trade-offs will remain valid. This seems to be of special relevance for coastal stocks with limited options for migration to avoid unfavorable future conditions and subsequently for coastal fisheries, which are often small scale local fisheries with limited operational ranges.

Voss R., Quaas M. F., Schmidt J. O. & Kapaun U., 2015. Ocean acidification may aggravate social-ecological trade-offs in coastal fisheries. PLoS One 10(3): e0120376. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120376. Article.

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