An ocean observation system for monitoring the affects of climate change on the ecology and sustainability of pelagic fisheries in the Pacific Ocean

Climate change presents an emerging challenge to the sustainable management of tuna fisheries, and robust information is essential to ensure future sustainability. Climate and harvest affect tuna stocks, populations of non-target, dependent species and the ecosystem. To provide relevant advice we need an improved understanding of oceanic ecosystems and better data to parameterise the models that forecast the impacts of climate change. Currently ocean-wide data collection in the Pacific Ocean is primarily restricted to oceanographic data. However, the fisheries observer programs that operate in the region offer an opportunity to collect the additional information on the mid and upper trophic levels of the ecosystem that is necessary to complement this physical data, including time-series of distribution, abundance, size, composition and biological information on target and non-target species and mid trophic level organisms. These observer programs are in their infancy, with limited temporal and spatial distribution but recent international and national policy decisions have been made to expand their coverage. We identify a number of actions to initiate this monitoring including: consolidating collaborations to ensure the use of best quality data; developing consistency between sub-regional observer programmes to ensure that they meet the objectives of ecosystem monitoring; interrogating of existing time series to determine the most appropriate spatial template for monitoring; and exploring existing ecosystem models to identify suitable indicators of ecosystem status and change. The information obtained should improve capacity to develop fisheries management policies that are resilient and can be adapted to climate change.

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