Oceans provide a significant contribution to global food security. Fish comprises about 20% of the animal protein in the diets of over 3 billion people. The contribution of fish to dietary animal protein can reach 50% in the world’s poorest regions, and up to 90% in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Climate change can influence species distribution as well as movement of fish. Physical changes in the oceans, such as increases in sea level, sea surface temperature or sea acidification level, can impact its ecology, affecting growth and the redistribution of species. Studies have already revealed that the composition of species in fish catches is changing as a result of climate change.
“We are also seeing changes in the tropics where species diversity as well as abundance are decreasing,” said Dr. Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak, Marine Policy Analyst, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Water and Ocean Governance Programme. She highlighted that “catches in the tropics are projected to decrease by about 40% while catches in the higher latitudes are projected to increase between 30-70%.” She noted that the global impact would amount to billions of dollars.
The gathered experts discussed the importance of strong policies and initiatives to deal with such impacts. Proper environmental monitoring systems coupled with climate change adaptation tools are needed to prepare fish farmers well in advance. Alf Haakon Hoel, Research Director, Institute of Marine Research, Norway emphasized the need to establish long-term management plans that would take the evolution of ecosystems into account.
Dr. Rohana P. Subasinghe, Senior aquaculture officer, FAO, focused on an FAO pilot-level monitoring and early warning systems to improve fishers and fish farmers preparedness and resilience to climatic variability and climate change. She explained how the monitoring information is linked to weather conditions and available meteorological data to send out early warning signals.
The first obstacle to overcome, however, is the lack of infrastructure and technical, human and institutional capacities to provide high quality climate services in many countries.