This means that fish populations are not stable so fisheries can’t rely on what they used to catch and have to adapt by changing what and how much they catch.  

People outside the fishing industry can help by only eating sustainable seafood. You can find which seafood is sustainable by using Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch program or looking for the Marine Stewardship Council logo. 

Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall.

Megan Hall: This month, we’re gearing up for a live panel discussion about how offshore wind and fisheries might co-exist in Rhode Island.

But before we tackle that topic, we wanted to know how Rhode Island’s fishing industry is being affected by a larger issue – climate change. 

Megan Hall: Olivia George and Dana Kurniawan from our Possibly team looked into this question. Welcome Olivia and Dana!

Olivia George: Hi Megan

Dana Kurniawan: Hello!

Megan Hall: So, let’s start with the basics – is climate change making our oceans noticeably warmer? 

Olivia George: Yes! Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make it harder for heat from the Earth’s surface to escape into space. 

Dana Kurniawan: Over 90% of this excess heat is absorbed and stored in the ocean, which makes it warmer.

Olivia George: Over the past decades, we’ve seen a significant increase in the temperature of the water in the ocean. 

Dana Kurniawan: And here in New England, the coastal waters are warming faster than almost anywhere else in the world. 

Megan Hall: Wow! So how are these rising temperatures affecting fish?

Dana Kurniawan: To find out, we spoke to Dr. Conor McManus, from Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management. He says it depends on the species of fish and where they live. 

Conor McManus: “Yeah, so, there are winners and losers to changes in temperature.”

Dana Kurniawan: For example, in southern New England, Black Seabass populations are growing in these warmer temperatures.

Olivia George: On the other hand, warming waters are leading to decreases in lobster and winter flounder populations. 

Megan Hall: How is this affecting the fishing industry?

Dana Kurniawan: Because of these increases and decreases in populations, fisheries have to adapt by changing what they catch and how much they catch.

Olivia George:  It’s creating uncertainty in the industry- they can’t just rely on what they used to catch.

Megan Hall: What’s being done to address this issue?

Dana Kurniawan: The Department of Environmental Management is trying to adopt what they call an  ecosystem based fisheries management strategy.

Olivia George: This strategy looks at changes in the ocean as a whole instead of focusing on one species. 

Megan Hall: What can someone outside the fishing industry do about this?

Olivia George:  Well, we can work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to slow down the rise of ocean temperatures.

Dana Kurniawan: But in terms of protecting marine life, we could also pay more attention to the kinds of fish we buy. Some fisheries are more sustainable than others. 

Megan Hall: What makes a fishery sustainable?

Dana Kurniawan: It’s a combination of a few factors, looking at how many fish are caught, whether their population is healthy, and if there are lots of other fish caught by accident in the process.  

Megan Hall: How can you tell if a fish fits this description?

Olivia George: You can look this information up online. For instance, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program lists sustainable seafood by state.  

Dana Kurniawan: You can also look for the Marine Stewardship Council blue logo in supermarkets or in restaurants. 

Megan Hall: Great, thanks for looking into this, Olivia and Dana!

Megan Hall: That’s it for today. We’re hosting our live panel on offshore wind and fisheries on Thursday, January 30th at District Hall in Providence. The event is free and open to anyone. We hope you’ll join us! To learn more and reserve your seat, go to “the public’s radio dot org slash possibly.”

Megan Hall: Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and the Public’s Radio. 


  1. Bradford A. Dubik, Elizabeth C. Clark, Talia Young, Sarah Bess Jones Zigler, Mikaela M. Provost, Malin L. Pinsky, Kevin St. Martin. Governing fisheries in the face of change: Social responses to long-term geographic shifts in a U.S. fishery, Marine Policy, Volume 99, 2019, Pages 243-251,

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