FRDC-DCCEE: management implications of climate change impacts on fisheries resources of northern Australia

Project Number:



James Cook University (JCU)

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Environment, Industry

Final Report - 2010-565-DLD - Implications of climate change impacts on fisheries resources in northern Australia

Final Report
Date Published:March 2014
Principal Investigator: David Welch

Keywords: Climate change, fisheries, northern Australia, life history, life cycle, environmental drivers, vulnerability assessment, adaptation, habitats, stakeholders.

Part 2: Species Profile available here

Provision of scenario-driven recommendations of adaptive management approaches that provide for the sustainability of northern Australia fisheries in a changing climate.
- The final project workshops worked with stakeholders to identify adaptation options based on likely future fishery scenarios. Scenarios were based on the reviews of species biology and ecology, as well as future localised climate projections, and described the likely response of key species to climate change. For example, the abundance of barramundi on the east coast is likely to decrease by 2030 due to reduced rainfall and increased water extraction, as well as habitat changes. Adaptation options across all species were grouped as: Alteration of fishing operations, Management-based options, Research and Development and Looking for Alternatives. These groupings generalise the types of adaptation that fishers and managers identified and species-specific options are also given in the report appendices. With these options stakeholders also identified the likely barriers and who is responsible for their implementation. Cost was identified as a key barrier to most options as well as political opposition. The options presented here represent an initial, but important, step towards northern Australian fisheries preparing for climate change.

Determination of the vulnerability of northern Australia's fisheries to climate change.
- A key output from the project was the development and application of vulnerability assessments of key fishery species from three key regions of northern Australia. The assessment framework developed is semi-quantitative and draws on the elements of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. The assessments are species-based and regionally targeted and he framework is a tool to assess the relative vulnerability of species to climate change, providing an objective and strategic basis for developing responses to projected changes. The framework is also transparent and provides the means for determining the appropriateness of responses. The framework can readily be adopted for similar assessments in other regions and, with modification, could also be adopted in other disciplines. The vulnerability assessments here focused on 2030, a medium-term outlook, and one considered to be more relevant to all stakeholders, although an assessment was also carried out based on the A1FI emissions scenario for 2070.

Greater understanding of the impacts of short and long term climate variability on northern Australia's key fisheries species, fisheries and regions of northern Australia, and the key environmental drivers. These include identification of priority species, fisheries and/or locations for targeted monitoring.
- The project has delivered as a major output, summary tables of the likely impacts of climate change on key northern Australian fishery species and habitats, also identifying the environmental variables of significance. This was done for three regional areas of northern Australia based on projected climate change for 2030. The key species likely to be impacted by changes predicted for 2070 (A1FI emissions scenario) were also identified. The vulnerability assessment process also prioritised species for action.Generally, inshore species were assessed to be more likely to be affected by future climate change. The east coast was identified as a critical region given that rainfall (riverflow) is projected to decrease and many species populations are known to be positively associated with riverflow. This is amplified by the likely increase in water extraction for land-based uses, particularly on the east coast. Across all regions in northern Australia the species identified as highest priority (high vulnerability and high fishery importance) were: golden snapper, king threadfin, sandfish, black teatfish, tiger prawn, banana prawn, barramundi and mangrove jack.

Improved capacity for fisheries management agencies and industry to assess current practices and policies to optimise positioning for future predicted scenarios.
- Collectively, the key outputs of this project provide an informed basis for management and industry to assess current fisheries management against likely future scenarios. Management as well as commercial and recreational fishing interests were key participants in the project and had direct input into key outcomes providing.


1. Describe the projected climate-driven changes that are relevant to northern Australian marine fisheries.

2. Assess the potential impacts of climate change on key fisheries and species in northern Australia.

3. Assess current management to identify approaches that are adaptive to potential climate change scenarios