Fisheries management, aquaculture, and climate change
In a changing climate, managing fisheries and developing sustainable aquaculture is becoming more complex. We're building our understanding of the challenges fisheries and aquaculture face from climate change now and in the future, and how the sectors might need to change to ensure resilience.
We are already seeing the impacts of climate change on our land and sea, including both long-term gradual changes, and short term impacts such as extreme weather events. Both can affect the abundance and distribution of marine life, impacting how and what we grow and harvest from the sea.
To ensure sustainable management and support the sectors' response to these changes, we aim to:
- deliver research to understand and adapt to climate change in the marine environment
- engage directly with fisheries and aquaculture stakeholders to understand impacts
- communicate clearly about the research we do and the fisheries management measures we take
- support the aquaculture industry to adapt to climate change by partnering and investing in breeding programs and hatcheries, and by supporting good decision-making about where aquaculture happens.
How climate change is affecting fisheries and aquaculture
We are already seeing the effects of climate change in our fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Examples include:
- some species appearing in waters further south than before
- warming ocean temperatures, affecting the areas suitable to grow some aquaculture species
- localised loss of habitat-forming species like kelp.
A summary of the factors causing these changes is discussed in Chapter 12: Aquatic environment and biodiversity annual review (2021) [PDF, 3.8 MB]
Some primary issues affecting New Zealand are ocean warming, marine heatwaves, shifts in marine circulation and weather patterns, and ocean acidification.
Our research into climate change and fisheries
You can search for published research commissioned by Fisheries New Zealand in our document library
New projects can be found on our web page about fisheries research processes
This information, along with peer-reviewed literature from other research organisations, helps inform how we manage fish stocks in New Zealand's waters.
How we manage New Zealand's fisheries
Monitoring vulnerable fish stocks and key fish species
We are adapting our research priorities to focus on research gaps and to monitor vulnerable stocks more closely.
An assessment, commissioned by Fisheries New Zealand and published in 2021, provides a useful baseline summary of how our fisheries may be influenced by climate change.
Assessment of potential effects of climate related changes in coastal and offshore waters on NZ's seafood sector (Report No. 261)
The report identified that:
- measurable climate change effects are occurring in NZ waters
- most of our fisheries are likely to be affected by these changes
- sedentary shellfish species in inshore habitats will be more vulnerable to impacts than mobile fisheries species found in deeper water.
The summary includes report cards on the vulnerability of 3 species to climate change – pāua, hoki and snapper.
A visual guide to the results of the climate change assessment report (No. 261) [PDF, 3 MB]
Work and plans that support climate change adaptation
Seafood Sector Adaptation Strategy
Fisheries New Zealand participates in a cross-sector implementation group to support delivery of the strategy's commitments.
The group includes experts from government, iwi, industry, banking, research and environmental non-government organisations. It's looking at ways to support the seafood sector to respond and adapt to the challenges of a changing climate.
Seafood sector adaptation strategy implementation – The Aotearoa Circle
The Government's Aquaculture strategy recognises the importance of supporting adaptation to climate change, and sets out a number of actions to support resilience and adaptation.
Aquaculture strategy for NZ [PDF, 2.9 MB]
As part of the 2023 implementation plan for the Aquaculture strategy, MPI is improving our understanding of climate change and marine heatwave impacts on aquaculture, and supporting mitigation. This initiative will complement the work of the Aotearoa Circle.
National Adaptation Plan
The National Adaptation Plan creates an outline for how New Zealand will adapt to climate change, including several initiatives led by Fisheries New Zealand.
Building a climate-resilient New Zealand (NZ's first national adaptation plan) – Ministry for the Environment
External work supporting adaptation
The Moana project: This is an $11 million ocean project funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment. The project aims to vastly improve understanding of coastal ocean circulation, connectivity, and marine heatwaves. The aim is to provide information that supports sustainable growth of the seafood industry, science research efforts, iwi initiatives, and how we manage our marine environments.
The New Zealand Earth System Model (NZESM): This is under development to inform stakeholders in New Zealand about climate change. Improved modelling of ocean currents will lead to a better representation in the NZESM of ocean heat content and heat transportation, enabling more accurate predictions of future change, including to temperatures in the ocean and on land and related climate extremes.
Climate action is being taken across the primary industries
Climate change doesn't just affect fisheries – it impacts all primary industry sectors. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has a commitment to reducing carbon emissions and supporting the primary sector to adapt to climate change.
Climate change and the primary industries