Fisheries must be included in the ongoing discussions of how the world’s most vulnerable can adapt to climate change. The future consequences for global fisheries are uncertain, but what is certain is that there will be winners and losers, and we can bet the losers will be those who don’t have much already, says a recent policy article published in Nature by Nicholas Dulvy and Edward Allison.
Warmer and more acidic waters could result in decreased fish stocks, altered fish migration routes and loss of important fish spawning grounds. Dulvy and Allison highlight that it is the poorest coastal nations of the world that are most susceptible to climate change effects on aquatic ecosystems. People of these vulnerable countries are highly dependent on fisheries for income and food security, while having limited societal capacity to adapt to the ongoing changes:
African and southeast Asian countries are the most economically vulnerable to climate change impacts on their fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Of the 33 nations identified as being most vulnerable to climate impacts on their fisheries sectors, 19 are among the world’s least developed countries, whose inhabitants are twice as reliant on fish and fisheries for food as those of more developed nations.
The authors plea that aquatic resources, and the people dependent on them, are included in upcoming global climate treaties. More specifically, they offer some policy recommendations. For example, combined targets of emission reductions and sustainable fisheries management could be reached by reducing the overinflated global fishing fleet. Countries doing so could gain carbon credits as this action represents a legitimate mitigation activity. Furthermore, a more flexible and diversified fishing sector, which can adapt to changes in catch composition and stock abundances, should be promoted. Finally, fisheries policies should be integrated into a wider development process. For example, artisinal fishers can be provided with alternative livelihoods that lessen their dependence on fisheries, while the social-ecological resilience of vulnerable fishing communities can be promoted by improving their infrastructure, access to markets and social services.