The New England Fishery Management Council is joining other East Coast marine management councils to plan for a future marked by the continuing detrimental impacts of climate change.

The project, called East Coast Climate Change Scenario Planning, is a response to the accelerating and debilitating impacts on fish stocks and marine habitats caused by the effects of climate change.

“No one knows for sure what the future holds, but a continuation or acceleration of climate change has the potential to strain our existing fishery management system and alter the way fishermen, scientists, and the public interact with the marine environment,” the NFMC stated. “Scenario planning is a way of exploring how fishery management may need to evolve over the next few decades as climate change becomes a bigger issue.”

The other organizations participating in the initiative are the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries’ Gloucester-based Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

The Northeast Regional Coordinating Council, which consists of leadership from the MAFMC, NEFMC, ASMFC, GARFO, and NEFSC, will be the primary decision-making body for the initiative, with the addition of South Atlantic representatives.

“Over the next year, scenario planning organizations, guided by the Northeast Region Coordinating Council, will be bringing together fishery participants, fishery managers, researchers, and other stakeholders to discuss climate change issues,” the council stated. “The intent is to emerge with ideas and recommendations for how fishery management can adapt to climate change.”

The council stressed that the initiative is part of the long game to prepare fishery managers for all eventualities and possibilities.

“Nothing will happen immediately,” the council stated. “Managers will need to discuss the recommendations from the scenario planning project and figure out next steps. This initiative is an exercise in preparing for the future under a variety of ‘what if?’ scenarios.”

A seven-member core team of representatives from various fishery management organizations, formed in the first quarter of 2021, will be the primary technical group responsible for research, planning, coordination and the compilation of materials.

The NEFMC representative is Deidre Boelke, the council’s lead fishery analyst for Atlantic herring.

The core team also will spearhead the project’s solicitation of public opinion from fishing stakeholders, starting with three 90-minute webinars that will provide details on the overall project.

The webinars are set for Aug. 30 from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Sept. 1 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and Sept. 2 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Advanced registration is recommended and can be completed at https://midatlanticfisheriesmc.webex.com/.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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