Pacific Island countries have an extraordinary dependence on fisheries and aquaculture. Maintaining the benefits from the sector is a difficult task, now made more complex by climate change. Here we report how changes to the atmosphere–ocean are likely to affect the food webs, habitats and stocks underpinning fisheries and aquaculture across the region. We found winners and losers—tuna are expected to be more abundant in the east and freshwater aquaculture and fisheries are likely to be more productive. Conversely, coral reef fisheries could decrease by 20% by 2050 and coastal aquaculture may be less efficient. We demonstrate how the economic and social implications can be addressed within the sector—tuna and freshwater aquaculture can help support growing populations as coral reefs, coastal fisheries and mariculture decline.

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We thank the modelling groups at the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM), for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model data set. Their work, and the support provided for these data sets by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy, enabled us to assess the projected effects of climate change on surface climate and the tropical Pacific Ocean. We also thank the many colleagues who assisted us to make and present the analyses summarized in this article. Financial support for this project was provided by AusAID as part of Australia’s International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative.

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  1. Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, BP D5, 98848 Noumea, New Caledonia

    • Johann D. Bell
  2. Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, BP A5, 98848 Noumea, New Caledonia

    • Alexandre Ganachaud
    •  & Robert Le Borgne
  3. Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales, UMR5566, UPS (OMP-PCA), 14 ave E. Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France

    • Alexandre Ganachaud
  4. SMEC Australia Pty Ltd, Level 1, 154 Melbourne St., South Brisbane, Queensland 4101, Australia

    • Peter C. Gehrke
  5. Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, PO Box 2583, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia

    • Shane P. Griffiths
  6. Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia

    • Alistair J. Hobday
    •  & Richard J. Matear
  7. Global Change Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
  8. C2O Consulting and School of Environment, Science and Technology, Southern Cross University, PO Box 4321, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales 2450, Australia

    • Johanna E. Johnson
  9. Collecte Localisation Satellites, 8-10 rue Hermes Parc Technologique de Canal, Ramonville Cedex 31526, France

    • Patrick Lehodey
    •  & Inna Senina
  10. Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, Queensland 4810, Australia

    • Janice M. Lough
  11. Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Private Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji

    • Timothy D. Pickering
  12. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • Morgan S. Pratchett
  13. Climate Change Research Centre, University of NSW, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • Alex Sen Gupta
  14. School of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia

    • Michelle Waycott
  15. State Herbarium of South Australia, PO Box 2732, Kent Town, South Australia 5071, Australia

    • Michelle Waycott


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J.D.B. designed the study in collaboration with J.E.J. and A.J.H., and compiled the manuscript from analyses and written inputs/review by all authors. The model analyses were done by A.S.G. (surface climate and ocean), A.G. (ocean) and R.J.M. (ecological provinces, NPP and zooplankton biomass); S.P.G. did the modelling of micronekton using Ecopath with Ecosim, and P.L. and I.S. modelled the biomass of skipjack tuna using SEAPODYM.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Johann D. Bell.

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