A stakeholder-guided marine heatwave hazard index for fisheries and aquaculture

A stakeholder-guided marine heatwave hazard index for fisheries and aquaculture

March 1, 2024

Marine heatwaves pose an increasing threat to fisheries and aquaculture around the world under climate change. However, the threat has not been estimated for the coming decades in a form that meets the needs of these industries. Tasmanian fisheries and aquaculture in southeast Australia have been severely impacted by marine heatwaves in recent years, especially the oyster, abalone, and salmon industries. In a series of semi-structured interviews with key Tasmanian fishery and aquaculture stakeholders, information was gathered about the following: (i) the impacts they have experienced to date from marine heatwaves, (ii) their planning for future marine heatwaves, and (iii) the information that would be most useful to aid planning. Using CMIP6 historical and future simulations of sea surface temperatures around Tasmania, we developed a marine heatwave hazard index guided by these stakeholder conversations. The region experienced a severe marine heatwave during the austral summer of 2015/16, which has been used here as a reference point to define the index. Our marine heatwave hazard index shows that conditions like those experienced in 2015/16 are projected to occur approximately 1-in-5 years by the 2050s under a low emissions scenario (SSP1-2.6) or 1-in-2 years under a high emissions scenario (SSP5-8.5). Increased frequency of marine heatwaves will likely reduce productivity by both direct (mortality) and in-direct (ecosystem change, greater incidence of disease) impacts on target species. The illustrative hazard index is one step towards a marine heatwave risk index, which would also need to consider aspects of exposure and vulnerability to be of greater utility to stakeholders.

Read more: Kajtar, J.B., Holbrook, N.J., Lyth, A. et al. A stakeholder-guided marine heatwave hazard index for fisheries and aquaculture. Climatic Change 177, 26 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-024-03684-8

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