Evaluating present and future potential of arctic fisheries in Canada

Highlights

• Climate change will increase access to Arctic marine fish stocks in Canada.

• Projections show positive increases in fisheries catch and value potential with climate change.

• Range shifts driven by ocean warming will lead to increased catch potential.

• Ocean acidification may reduce projected increase in catch potential.

• Ecological, economic, social and cultural impacts of exploitation must be considered.

Abstract

The Arctic remains one of the most pristine marine regions in the world, however climate change and increasing favourable conditions is triggering increasing exploration and development of commercial fisheries. Canada’s Arctic marine capture fisheries are currently small relative to fisheries in other regions in Canada but small scale, predominantly Inuit fisheries are more wide spread. In this study, catch data was first used to estimate the current state of Arctic marine fisheries. Next, an integrated modelling approach was used to estimate the current and future fisheries potentials under high and low climate change scenarios. Comparisons of the current (2004–2015) annual reported tonnage and modelled estimates (±standard deviation) suggest that annual sustainable fisheries catch potential could be much greater at 4.07 (±2.86) million tonnes than the current catch of 189 (±6.26) thousand tonnes. Under a high climate change scenario, future (2091–2100) fisheries potential was projected to increase to 6.95 (±5.07) million tonnes of catch, while under low climate change scenario catch potential was similar to estimates of current catch potential. However, the greatest source of variance in catch potential estimates came from parameter uncertainty, followed by scenario and model uncertainty. These results contribute to understanding Canada’s Arctic marine ecosystems in the face of a rapidly changing environment, yet proper steps must be taken to ensure cultural preservation for Inuit communities as well as ecological, economic, and social sustainability.

Tai T. C., Steiner N. S., Hoover C., Cheung W. W. L. & Sumaila U. R., 2019. Evaluating present and future potential of arctic fisheries in Canada. Marine Policy 108: 103637. doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637. Article (subscription required).

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