Crab fishermen prove resilient to climate shocks Photo: NOAACrab fishermen prove resilient to climate shocks Photo: NOAA

Access to alternative fisheries, ports and grounds helps fishermen overcome the effects of climate shocks, suggests research conducted by NOAA.

Researchers at NOAA Fisheries and the Universities of Washington and Oregon State analysed the impact of a harmful algal bloom, the result of a 2014 to 2016 marine heatwave known as ‘the Blob’, on Dungeness crab fishermen.

“We wanted to examine the extent to which the Dungeness crab fishery delays affected participation in other fisheries and the duration of those changes,” explained Mary Fisher, a doctoral student at the University of Washington.

Mary Fisher and her colleagues studied the impacts on more than 2,500 vessels across seven California fishing communities, using ten years of fishery landings data to map resource use networks where Dungeness crab is an important revenue source.

They found that 71% of crab fishing vessels temporarily left the industry, stopping fishing altogether during the delays caused by the algal bloom. Other strategies to cope with the disruption included participating in fisheries unaffected by the bloom and fishing in more favourable locations.

The results highlight the important of nearshore groundfish fisheries as alternatives to the Dungeness crab fishery. “Most of the crab vessels that stayed out on the water were using pot or hook-and-line gear to fish groundfish,” said Ms Fisher. “I think we can expect access to these fisheries to continue to be important during crab season delays.”

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