Assessing the Vulnerability of Fish and Invertebrate Species in a Changing Climate

What is the Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment Methodology? 

The NOAA Fisheries Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment Methodology provides decision-makers with information on the relative vulnerability of fish species with expected changes in climate and ocean conditions.  The methodology was developed in collaboration with the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research - Earth System Research Laboratory.

The Methodology uses information on species life history characteristics, species distributions and projected future climate and ocean conditions to estimate the relative vulnerability of fish species to changes in abundance (and to some extent distribution). A full description of the Methodology is available here.

The results are intended to help guide additional science to better understand possible climate impacts on fish species or stocks and assist fisheries decision makers in considering how to prepare for and respond to climate-related changes. 

Where has the Methodology been applied?

As part of our proactive approach to increase the production, delivery, and use of climate-related information, NOAA scientists recently applied this new methodology to 82 fish and invertebrate species in the Northeast to assess the relative vulnerability of these species to climate change. To read more, please click here. The methodology is also being used to assess the climate vulnerability of fish and invertebrate stocks along the US West Coast and in the Bering Sea.

Why was the Methodology developed?

Climate-related changes in ocean ecosystems are impacting the nation’s marine species and the people, businesses, and communities that depend on them.  Scientists are linking changes in ocean temperatures to shifting fish species distributions and abundances in many marine ecosystems, and these impacts are expected to increase in the future. 

To prepare for and respond to the current and future changes in climate and oceans, fisheries managers and scientists need tools to identify what fishery resources may be most vulnerable in a changing climate and why. By providing this information, the methodology can help fisheries managers and scientists identify ways to reduce risks and impacts to fisheries resources and the people that depend on them. Scientists can use the results to identify gaps and help prioritize research. Managers can use the results to identify potential impacts and start discussions on possible management approaches to reduce impacts and increase resilience of fish species, fisheries, and fishing-dependent communities.

What information does the Methodology provide?

The methodology provides fishery managers, scientists, and others with information they can use as they consider what additional scientific information is needed and how to adapt management strategies for those fish species. This includes information about which species in the region are most vulnerable or adaptable to environmental impacts of climate change. 

The Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment is specifically designed to help:

(1) Identify which species or stocks may be most vulnerable with changing climate and ocean conditions;

(2) Identify what additional information is needed to understand and address these risks;

(3) Provide a basis for considering what actions might be taken to reduce fish species vulnerability;

(4)  Identify where more information is needed to understand, track, and respond to fish species vulnerability.  That information can then be used to help prioritize research, monitoring and modeling efforts.


Methodology for Assessing the Vulnerability of Marine Fish and Shellfish Species to a Changing Climate


How does the Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Work?

The Methodology is designed to provide information on the relative vulnerability of marine/coastal fish and invertebrates to projected climate-related changes in a region.  It is intended to provide information on which species may be most vulnerable to changes in abundance and/or distribution with potential future climate changes, to help guide additional science and management actions that may reduce impacts and increase resilience.

The chart below describes the basic steps in developing a fish species climate vulnerability assessment.


The Methodology is only relevant for fish and invertebrate species, and NOAA Fisheries is currently developing a similar vulnerability assessment that will be applicable to marine mammals and sea turtles. Additional information is available on the Methodology process, data requirements and implementation.

For more Information:

Full description of the Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment Methodology is available here.

Northeast Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

PLOS ONE article

NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy


For more information on the Fish Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment Methodology, its application or other NOAA Fisheries efforts please contact,, or

Examples of Other Vulnerability Assessments