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Hans Nieuwenhuis

Regional Director for the Marine Stewardship Council in Northern Europe. Hans studied at Wageningen University and the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research in Utrecht. He is an expert in fisheries management and climate change having previously represented the Dutch government on the Board of the IPCC and advisor/negotiator in the UN Climate Negotiations (Kyoto Protocol, Marrakech Agreements) before working in fisheries conservation policy.


Climate change is having a profound impact on our oceans. The IPCC’s landmark report, The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, published today demonstrates that progress towards sustainable fisheries management is now even more urgent than ever before.

While oceans in higher latitudes, such as the North Atlantic and North Pacific, are seeing increases in the range of some fish species, resulting in new fishing opportunities, areas in the Tropics are predicted to see significant declines in their potential seafood catch – up to 40% by 2050. Marine heatwaves are estimated to have increased by more than 50% in the past 30 years, resulting in localised, often sudden, declines in marine life.

These changes have a knock-on effect on the structure and productivity of marine ecosystems. They also present a major challenge to businesses, economies, and communities that rely on fishing for their livelihoods and nutrition. With fish providing 17% animal protein consumed globally and accounting for more than US $140 billion international trade per year, this is both an environmental and human crisis we cannot ignore.

Sustainable, well managed fisheries which have effective monitoring, regulation and management systems in place are more resilient and able to adapt to climate change. Yet globally governments and fisheries managers are already struggling to reach consensus on how to sustainably manage ocean resources. 

We’ve seen some of the most well managed fisheries struggling to cope with stock fluctuations, in part due to climate change. The suspension of MSC certification of North East Atlantic mackerel earlier this year demonstrates the challenge in reaching international consensus in managing fishing stocks that are moving across geopolitical boundaries, while recent declines in North Sea cod stocks have also been in attributed to fewer cod reaching maturity, in part as a result of climate change.

Responding to the challenge of climate change will require the fishing industry and fisheries managers to collaborate on an international scale, to take a precautionary approach to setting catches and to evolve their practices to reflect changing scientific advice and migration patterns. This will not be easy, but it must be done if we are to continue to enjoy the plentiful seafood and preserve marine life.

MSC certified fisheries show that it is possible. These fisheries meet international standards for sustainability and currently represent 15% global seafood catch. By ensuring they have effective monitoring and management in place to reduce their impacts on the environment and only catch what is sustainable, they are balancing economic and environmental priorities to safeguard our oceans and seafood supplies. It will take many more fisheries to follow their lead if our oceans are to remain teeming with life for future generations.

Climate change and fishing

Climate change affects the distribution of fish stocks. To balance economic and environmental priorities, fishing needs to be well-managed and sustainable.

Climate change and fishing