Countries urged to increase adaptive capacity to reduce vulnerability in marine fisheries


Marine fisheries can reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change by increasing their adaptive capacity— adjusting fisheries and livelihoods to cope with negative climate impacts and seize emerging opportunities, according to a peer-reviewed study authored by marine scientists.

They also recommend that countries use the pool of financing available through climate funds for this, which is now estimated at up to $650 billion annually for all countries.

The vulnerability of 147 countries’ marine fisheries was calculated; landlocked countries were not considered. This was done for the near future (2016-2050) and far future (2066-2100), compared with 1900-1950 as a reference.

A country’s vulnerability to climate change depends on three variables:

  • Its exposure to climate change impacts.
  • Its sensitivity to changes in productive capacity associated with these climate change impacts.
  • Its adaptive capacity.

For the exposure, change in average sea surface temperature was computed, based on a large number of climate models and a low-end, intermediate, and high-end scenario of climate change.  The sensitivity or dependence of countries with regard to marine capture fisheries was calculated as an index of five variables: number of fishers, share of marine fisheries exports in total exports, percentage of fishers in the economically active population, weight of total fisheries landings, and share of marine fish protein in total protein consumption. Adaptive capacity was calculated from fisheries subsidies, the ratio of industrial to small-scale fisheries, healthy life expectancy, governance capacity, education levels, and per capita gross domestic product.

Pacific and Caribbean islands and coastal Africa most at risk

The study shows that the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change on fisheries are primarily small island states in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean, and countries along the Western and Eastern coasts of Africa. All 29 marine countries in Europe, on the other hand, appeared to be among the countries having the lowest vulnerability scores. The low vulnerability scores for Europe are due to Europe’s high adaptive capacity, a continuous drop in employment in the fisheries sector over the past decades, and relatively low economic importance of the fisheries sector.

The article first appeared on Climate Change Post and is a digest of a scientific paper by Blasiak et al., 2017. PLoS ONE 12(6).

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