Jean-Luc Le Blanc

WCASP - 39

WMO/TD-No. 788

World Meteorological Organization

WMO-Geneva / November 96


1) Physical and chemical parameters significant in fish-environment relationships.

a) Physical parameters

  • i) Sea Surface Temperature (SST°
  • ii) Thermocline Structure
  • iii) Wind and Sea Level Pressure

b) Chemical parameters

  • i) Dissolved Oxygen
  • ii) Nitrates, Phosphates and Silicates

2) The fisherman-environment problem

  • a) Environment and Catchability
  • b) Environment and Sustainable Management

1) Short space and time scales: one hour to several days-one meter to 1 km

  • a) Impacts
  • b) Services

2) Medium scales: one month to several years-hundreds of kilometres

3) Long scales: decadal to centennial-ocean basin

1) Remote Sensing

  • a) Sea Surface Temperature (SST)
  • b) Ocean Surface Winds
  • c) Sea Color
  • d) Altimetric measurements

2) In-situ observations

a) Sea surface measurements

  • i) from Ships
  • ii) from Moored and Drifting Buoys
  • iii) from the Shore

b) Subsurface measurements

c) Indexes

d) Time Series

3) Numerical Models Results

4) How to adapt existing services?

1) National Programs

2) International Programs


The first UN conference on the environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, proclaimed that "each human being had the right for a healthy environment and the duty to protect it and to make it better for future generations". At that time, the problem of environment was localized within a region or a country. Since the dramatic occurrence of big catastrophes such as Seveso (1976), Amoco-Cadiz (1978) or Chernobyl (1986), the problem has become a global one. Today, to be a powerful state not only depends on the possession of weapons but also on the capability to protect and maintain the "Blue" planet. In 1987, the Brundtland report refers to the notion of sustainable development: protection of the environment and sustainable development are both sides of the same coin. Since the Rio Conference in 1992 on Environment and Development, global awareness of the effects of anthropogenic activities on climate and, in return, climate impacts on our lives have increased at all levels and in all aspects, sociological, economical and scientific. One consequence of this growing interest in climate variations in relation to our living conditions are the numerous studies dealing with the impact of climate variations and changes on human health, human migration, energy, water resources, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc.

Paradoxically, even though global consciousness on global environmental problems has increased, there is a feeling of disappointment and failure because of population increase. Since the Stockholm conference in 1972, until the Rio conference in 1992, the world population increased by one and a half milliard more human beings and one has the feeling of always being "one train too late" in solving the global food supply problem and in securing good living conditions for all societies. Still, hope exists since, at the same time, scientists are progressing in many fields such as Earth-sciences, part of which are climatology and oceanography.

Climatologists and atmosphere scientists study climate processes and their effects on global or regional scales, while oceanographers study 70% of our planet's surface, that is covered by the oceans. Our knowledge of oceanography was, until recently, very poor. With the demographic problem in mind, and knowing that fish products cover almost 25% of the global supply of animal protein, the necessity of studying fisheries seems obvious. Recent progress in climatology and in the different fields of oceanography (physical, chemical and biological) allow the study of fish-ecology which should help the fisheries community to better manage these resources.

Finally, the subject of fisheries management in relation with climate and environment is part of a larger and more general problem: the protection of the environment and sustainable development for the benefit of all societies, present and future.

Geneva, 15th November 1996.

Jean-Luc Le Blanc.

(1) Note: The fisheries community refers to fishermen, fisheries managers, industries and companies, fishing authorities, etc., who are in this case, the users of Climate Services. The scientific community refers to researchers in oceanography, fisheries biology and climatologists, etc. This definition remains valid for the rest of the text.


Not very long ago, environment was neglected in fisheries studies and stock assessment and was considered as a "noise" compared to the effects of fishing activity. Moreover, data were not available to study the importance of the environment and of the climate on biological productivity. Today one has improved access to this information. The physical and the biological environment can no longer be neglected in resource management. Research clearly shows that fisheries are closely linked to climate variations.

Fish behaviour in relation to its environment is a complete subject which requires inter-disciplinary collaboration between scientists. Biologists need to work with physical oceanographers. These in turn, have to cooperate with climatologists. Furthermore, the results of the studies on the fish-environment system should be confronted with the practical experience of fishermen themselves.

Nowadays, progress in communication and information, through satellites, computers and Internet, make exchanging data and information possible. The improved capability for integrated observing networks, data collection and automated computer processing now permits monitoring of climate conditions in near-real-time throughout the entire climate system, including the upper atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere. These new climate monitoring products may provide the basis for a range of services. However, these services must be adapted to specific users. Sustainable resource management in the fisheries sectorrequires specifically tailored services to improve problem resolution and decision making.

This paper discusses the application of Climate Services to fisheries management and operations. It is intended to bridge the gap­ in understanding and comunication­ between the scientific community and those engaged in fisheries. While many research is carried out in fisheries sciences, mainly biology and ecology, very little of the results are used by fisheries managers and fishermen themselves, considered here as the users(1).

A review of the present knowledge and research activities in fisheries-environment relationship problems is provided. This will bring us to define what remains to be done to apply scientific results to fisheries management. That is the challenge for the national Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) as they aim at improving their respective contribution to national sustainable development goals.

Climate Service may include the application of past climatological records, contemporary monitoring and expected future conditions to socio-economic sectors comprising fisheries. This sector consists of many activities: deep sea and near shore fisheries, marine, freshwater (inland) fisheries and aquaculture. Many different fish species are concerned, each having their own behavioral response to variations in their environment. Therefore, it is impossible to review all activities, management problems and specific needs in one paper. However we will try to formulate general features of climate services relevant to all fisheries. This leads us to document the ground aspects and impacts of climate on fisheries and their management. Additional consultation is required for adaptation and application of services to specific fisheries problems (for example, when studying lake fisheries).

(1) Note: The users of Climate Services are the fishermen, fishing industries and companies, fishing regulatory authorities, etc., who constitute the fisheries community. The scientific community refers to researchers in oceanography, fisheries biology and climatologists, etc. This definition remains valid for the rest of the text.