Impacts of climate change on fish and shellfish in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

The commercially important fish and shellfish of Caribbean SIDS have been considered in four groups based on environment and following the typical division of fishery groups used in this region.

There is a dearth of research and long-term datasets on the impacts of climate change on Caribbean marine environments and the important fishery resources. Most research to date has been outside of the Caribbean and has examined the impacts of one or two stressors in short-term ex situ experiments which are unlikely to accurately reflect the true complexity of long-term in situ impacts of climate change in the region. There is a need to consider the combined effects of climate change stressors (direct and indirect) on both individuals and ecosystems, together with the synergistic effects of other chronic anthropogenic stressors in the region.

We consider the reef-associated shallow shelf group to be the most vulnerable of the four fishery groups given: 1) the already apparent negative climate change impacts on their critical habitats; 2) the overexploited state of most reef-associated fishery stocks; 3) the already degraded state of their nearshore habitats as a result of other anthropogenic activities; and 4) their biphasic life history, requiring the ability to settle in specific benthic nursery habitat from a pelagic early life stage.

We consider the most resilient group, over the short-term, to be the oceanic pelagic species that generally show fewer negative responses to the climate change stressors given that they: 1) are highly mobile with generally good acid-base regulation; 2) have an entirely pelagic lifecycle; 3) have less vulnerable reproductive strategies (i.e. they have extended spawning seasons and over broad areas); and 4) are generally exposed to fewer or less severe anthropogenic stressors.

This summary is provided with the following important caveat: “Any attempt to report on what has already happened to fish and shellfish resources in the Caribbean, based on direct evidence, will be strongly biased by the fact that there is a lack of monitoring and directed research examining fish and shellfish species-level impacts of climate change in this region. As such, any conclusions drawn from direct evidence alone will likely misrepresent the true nature and extent of the climate change impacts on the coastal and marine fish and shellfish resources within the Caribbean to date.”

Oxenford H. A. & Monnereaurd I., 2017. Impacts of climate change on fish and shellfish in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card: Science Review 83-114. Article.

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