May 29 2014

Seafood industry under threat from climate change


By April Forristall, assistant editor
Published on 28 May, 2014


A report released on Wednesday reveals the growing threat of climate change and acidification to marine resources.

The report contains findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report and was published jointly by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Judge Business School and supported by the European Climate Foundation.

Findings include:

  • The total loss of landings to global fisheries by 2050 due to climate change range from USD 17 billion (EUR 12.5 billion) to USD 41 billion (EUR 30.1 billion) based on a global warming scenario of 2 degrees.
  • Fishery yields will increase 30 – 70 percent in high latitudes but fall by 40 – 60 percent in the Tropics and Antarctica based on 2 degrees of warming. Large species like tuna in the Pacific and Indian oceans are likely to move eastwards.
  • 400 hundred million people depend critically on fish for their food and face reduced access to marine protein because of climate change and acidification. Artisanal fishermen in the Tropics are most at risk.
  • Changes in the distribution of particular marine species may lead to conflict between fishing nations and significant increases in illegal fishing.
  • The impacts of climate change and ocean acidification are generally exacerbated by other factors like pollution, habitat loss and over-fishing

“This report is a wake up call for the seafood industry to recognize the scale of the threat to ocean resources from climate change and acidification,” said Blake Lee-Harwood of SFP. “We need to see urgent action in trying to mitigate the likely impacts while adapting wherever that’s practically possible.”

“This briefing highlights the business-critical implications of climate change for the fisheries sector, representing tens of billions of dollars in future costs and damages for the industry. Companies in this sector will have to take the implications of climate science into account as they plan for the future. We hope that this briefing, developed with experts from both business and science, will help them do so,” said Eliot Whittington of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
The report cites areas where action can be taken to lessen the impact of climate change:

  • Adapt where possible — for instance, some shellfish hatcheries in the north west USA have learned to avoid taking in seawater during periods of high acidity
  • Undertake vulnerability assessments of fisheries and aquaculture operations
  • Strengthen coastal zone management to reduce land-sourced pollution, over-harvesting and physical damage to resources
  • Create new habitats such as artificial reefs to act as fish nurseries in areas where coral reef destruction occurs


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