In this period of environmental change, understanding how resource users respond to such changes is critical for effective resource management and adaptation planning. Extensive work has focused on natural resource responses to environmental changes, but less has examined the response of resource users to such changes. We used an interdisciplinary approach to analyse changes in resource use among commercial trawl fishing communities in the northwest Atlantic, a region that has shown poleward shifts in harvested fish species. We found substantial community-level changes in fishing patterns since 1996: southern trawl fleets of larger vessels with low catch diversity fished up to 400 km further north, while trawl fleets of smaller vessels with low catch diversity shrank or disappeared from the data set over time. In contrast, trawl fleets (of both large and small vessels) with higher catch diversity neither changed fishing location dramatically or nor disappeared as often from the data set. This analysis suggests that catch diversity and high mobility may buffer fishing communities from effects of environmental change. Particularly in times of rapid and uncertain change, constructing diverse portfolios and allowing for fleet mobility may represent effective adaptation strategies.
Read the full article in ICES Journal of Marine Science.