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Governance challenges for tropical nations losing fish species due to climate change


Climate change is driving fishery stocks out of their historical ranges. Along with the management challenge of species entering new jurisdictions, the exit of species from countries’ waters poses distinct threats to those resources and the economies that depend on them. We show that this risk is particularly acute in the tropics, where projected exits are highest and entries are fewest. We find that existing policy frameworks are poorly equipped for this challenge, and we suggest a way forward that draws on climate policy.

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Fig. 1: National loss of species.
Fig. 2: Impact to tropical regions.

Data availability

The species distribution maps used to generate the range-shift projections that informed our analysis are publicly available at Datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We thank D. Bradley, C. Cochran, D. Flores, S. Gaines, J. Lawson and Q. Lee for comments, suggestions and references. This work was supported in part by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (grant number 2016-65300). J.G.M. is supported by the ‘Tenure-Track System Promotion Program’ of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the JSPS KAKENHI, Grant Number 19H04322.

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Authors and Affiliations



K.L.O. conceived the idea with input from all of the authors. J.G.M. developed the species loss analysis. J.G.M. and T.M. conducted the species loss analysis. K.L.O., C.C., J.S. and J.B. designed the agreement analysis. J.B., T.M. and A.L. conducted the agreements analysis. K.L.O. wrote the manuscript with input from all of the authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kimberly L. Oremus.

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Competing interests

C.C. is on the Board of Trustees for two environmental NGOs: Environmental Defense Fund and Global Fishing Watch. The other authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2, and methods.

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Oremus, K.L., Bone, J., Costello, C. et al. Governance challenges for tropical nations losing fish species due to climate change. Nat Sustain 3, 277–280 (2020).

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