Evidence has accumulated that climate variability influences the state and functioning of marine ecosystems. At the same time increasing pressure from exploitation and other human activities has been shown to impact exploited and non-exploited species and potentially modify ecosystem structure. There has been a tendency among marine scientists to pose the question as a dichotomy, i.e., whether (1) "natural" climate variability or (2) fishery exploitation bears the primary responsibility for population declines in fish populations and the associated ecosystem changes. However, effects of both climate and exploitation are probably substantially involved in most cases. More importantly, climate and exploitation interact in their effects, such that climate may cause failure in a fishery management scheme but that fishery exploitation may also disrupt the ability of a resource population to withstand, or adjust to, climate changes. Here, we review how exploitation, by altering the structure of populations and ecosystems, can modify their ability to respond to climate. The demographic effects of fishing (removal of large-old individuals) can have substantial consequences on the capacity of populations to buffer climate variability through various pathways (direct demographic effects, effects on migration, parental effects). In a similar way, selection of population sub-units within meta-populations may also lead to a reduction in the capacity of populations to withstand climate variability and change. At the ecosystem level, reduced complexity by elimination of species, such as might occur by fishing, may be destabilizing and could lead to reduced resilience to perturbations. Differential exploitation of marine resources could also promote increased turnover rates in marine ecosystems, which would exacerbate the effects of environmental changes. Overall (and despite the specificities of local situations) reduction in marine diversity at the individual, population and ecosystem levels will likely lead to a reduction in the resilience and an increase in the response of populations and ecosystems to future climate variability and change. Future management schemes will have to consider the structure and functioning of populations and ecosystems in a wider sense in order to maximise the ability of marine fauna to adapt to future climates.