11 July 2018
FAO Report Projects Climate Change Impacts on World’s Fisheries
UN Photo/John Isaac
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FAO launched a comprehensive report on fisheries and climate change combining a wide range of scientific analyses and modeling on how climate change will affect the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers.

The publication focuses on impacts on fisheries in the context of poverty alleviation and the differential dependency of countries on fish and fishery resources.

Findings indicate that climate change will result in significant changes in the distribution of fish and in the availability and trade of fish products.

These impacts will pose challenges for achieving several SDGs, especially in fisheries-dependent countries.

10 July 2018: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) released a publication predicting that climate change will affect the productivity of the world’s freshwater and marine fisheries. The report urges countries to meet their adaptation commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to minimize the impacts of climate change on the world’s fisheries and the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people.

The publication titled, ‘Impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture: Synthesis of current knowledge, adaptation and mitigation options,’ combines global, regional and national analyses and modeling from over 100 collaborating scientists’ projects. As a result of a changing climate, the Synthesis projects, among other impacts: shifts in ocean circulation patterns; rising sea levels; altered rainfall and storm patterns; and changes in water temperature and pH levels. These changes are predicted to alter the distribution and productivity of marine species and increase the incidence of aquatic diseases and other impacts such as coral bleaching.

The report’s models suggest that the decline in the productive potential of fisheries in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) overall will remain below 12%, but significant fluctuations will occur at the regional level, as fish shift their geographic distributions in response to climate change. The largest decreases in productivity are expected in tropical marine environments, especially in the South Pacific. The report notes that such shifts could significantly impact the national incomes of tuna-dependent countries, such as the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS). In contrast, catch potential is likely to increase in countries in higher latitudes. The report underscores, however, that these projections reflect changes in oceans’ capacity to produce fish and do not reflect management decisions that may be taken in response.

The report includes country by country analyses of impacts and projections on whether levels of stress will change and to what extent. Countries currently facing high stress that are predicted to face increasing stress in the future include Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan and Spain. Cambodia, the Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR) Colombia and Myanmar are among countries currently under low stress that are anticipated to remain under low stress in the future.

China and Norway are the most vulnerable countries for marine aquaculture as a result of the scale of their marine fish farming systems and dependence on a few species. Other countries considered highly vulnerable include China, Madagascar, the Philippines and Viet Nam. For freshwater aquaculture, Bangladesh, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), and Viet Nam are estimated to be the most vulnerable in Asia. Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Honduras are the most vulnerable in the Americas. Egypt, Nigeria and Uganda are the most vulnerable in Africa.

The publication includes analyses based on different mitigation scenarios. Under a strong mitigation scenario, fisheries production in marine EEZs could decline between 2.8 to 5.4% by 2050, whereas under a business-as-usual scenario, the decline could reach 7 to 12.1%.

Regarding impacts on SDG 1 (end poverty) and SDG 2 (zero hunger), the report emphasizes that small-scale fishers and fish farmers are especially vulnerable to climate change because of their economic status and geographical locations. Within this context, the report underscores the need for multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral adaptation to increase the resilience of individuals and communities, eradicate poverty and provide food security. The report further recommends placing a stronger emphasis on the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to poverty reduction and food security in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The publication also identifies potential positive impacts from climate change, such as increased precipitation leading to improved connectivity between some fish habitats. To take advantage of potentially positive impacts, the report recommends adaptive management measures within an ecosystem approach to fisheries, flexible policies, laws and regulations and new investments in key areas. The report further argues that fisheries management practices need to be “retooled to respond to specific needs in specific contexts.” To prevent maladaptation, FAO classifies adaptation tools into three categories: mitigating risk and supporting resilience; strengthening and diversifying people’s livelihoods; and institutional and management responses. The report recommends implementing adaptation measures as an ongoing and iterative process, “equivalent in many respects to adaptive management in fisheries.”

Speaking at the report’s launch FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva urged the international community to provide adequate support to help countries adapt to climate change. Observing the failure of the Green Climate Fund’s (GCF) board to make a decision on replenishment of the fund in the previous week, he appealed to governments on the GCF board to resolve their disagreements over funding. [FAO Press Release] [Publication:Impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture]

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