Global fisheries must brace for climate change, warns UN report

2 March 2009

The fishing industry and government authorities must plan ahead to deal with the impact of climate change on fisheries worldwide, according to a new United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

The fishing industry and government authorities must plan ahead to deal with the impact of climate change on fisheries worldwide, according to a new United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

Responsible practices must be put into place more widely and management plans should include strategies for dealing with global warming, according to the FAO publication, entitled “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” (SOFIA).

Communities that rely heavily on fishing for their income will face serious challenges if fewer fish are available, with developing countries earning almost $25 billion annually in fish exports. The report estimated that more than 500 million people worldwide depend on the fishing sector.

The distribution of marine and freshwater species is already being affected by climate change, with warmer-water species being pushed towards the poles and changing in habitat size and productivity.

Biological processes are also being impacted, which has consequences for fish production, warned the report.

Kevern Cochrane, one of the report’s authors, said that the message to fishers and authorities is clear: “Get in line with current best practices, like those contained in FAO’s Code for Responsible Fisheries, and you’ve already taken important strides towards mitigating the effects of climate change.”

He cautioned that many fisheries are already being exploited at maximum productive capacity.

“When you look at the impacts that climate change might have on ocean ecosystems, that raises concerns as to how they’ll hold up,” said Mr. Cochrane.

The issues covered by SOFIA will be discussed by representatives from over 80 countries who are gathering today at FAO Headquarters in Rome for the 28th session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

 

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