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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Feb 20;115(8):1831-1836. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1711122115. Epub 2018 Jan 22.

Climate vulnerability and resilience in the most valuable North American fishery.

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Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME 04101;
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME 04101.
School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO 80305.
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309.


Managing natural resources in an era of increasing climate impacts requires accounting for the synergistic effects of climate, ecosystem changes, and harvesting on resource productivity. Coincident with recent exceptional warming of the northwest Atlantic Ocean and removal of large predatory fish, the American lobster has become the most valuable fishery resource in North America. Using a model that links ocean temperature, predator density, and fishing to population productivity, we show that harvester-driven conservation efforts to protect large lobsters prepared the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery to capitalize on favorable ecosystem conditions, resulting in the record-breaking landings recently observed in the region. In contrast, in the warmer southern New England region, the absence of similar conservation efforts precipitated warming-induced recruitment failure that led to the collapse of the fishery. Population projections under expected warming suggest that the American lobster fishery is vulnerable to future temperature increases, but continued efforts to preserve the stock's reproductive potential can dampen the negative impacts of warming. This study demonstrates that, even though global climate change is severely impacting marine ecosystems, widely adopted, proactive conservation measures can increase the resilience of commercial fisheries to climate change.


American lobster; climate impacts; harvest strategies; population dynamics; resilience

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[Available on 2018-08-20]

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