Posted on 16 October 2020
If the small-scale fisheries sector fails to adapt to climate change, it will collapse
Research from WWF, Agrocampus Ouest (France), University of British Columbia (Canada), Charles Darwin Foundation (Galapagos) and Instituto Nacional de Pesca (Ecuador) shows that half of the world's fish production is at risk due to the climate crisis. This is because small-scale fishers, who account for half of the world's fish production, are disproportionately affected by the consequences of a warmer ocean. The study reveals that the total number of fish could shrink by up to 40% in some tropical regions by 2100, due to climate impacts.
As over 60% of the EU’s seafood is imported, much of it from nations whose fisheries are already experiencing the adverse impacts of an overfished and warmer ocean, impacts to the EU seafood market could be dire. The EU must ensure that fish products are traceable to verify the legality and sustainability of seafood products in order to not inadvertently fuel illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in exporting countries. Better and more effective monitoring and control of fishing activities, together with investment in better equipment and scientific data are essential.
The report’s case studies show that small-scale fishers in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, South Africa and the Philippines are already badly affected by declining catches. This can be due either to reduced fish stocks or to changes in where fish are found as species move further away from the coast or into deeper, cooler waters where they are no longer accessible by small-scale fishing gear.
The study shows that climate change has significant negative consequences for the majority of fish species caught by small-scale fishers, including some of the most commercially important species like sardines, anchovies and tuna. The socio-economic consequences are unprecedented, from shrinking incomes as fish stocks decline and increased risks to personal safety as fishers must travel further to find fish in seas with increasing extreme weather conditions, to consumers worldwide no longer able to access key sources of protein.