EU ocean governance must help curb climate change impacts to food security

Posted on 04 June 2019

WWF calls on the EU to lead on global ocean governance in the face of climate change
Brussels, Belgium - 4 June, 2019

In a policy briefing published today, WWF calls on the EU to lead on global ocean governance in the face of climate change impacts on fisheries and food security. 70% of the EU’s seafood is imported, much of it from nations whose fisheries are already experiencing the adverse impacts of an overfished, warmer ocean. Implementing legal frameworks in the face of accelerating climate change and integrating adaptive measures into strategies and national policies are now crucial steps to support the EU meeting its international commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including Zero Hunger (SDG 2) and Life Below Water (SDG 14). To achieve this, WWF urges all Member States and industry stakeholders to intensify efforts towards sustainable fisheries and ecosystem-based management of our ocean. 

Dr Samantha Burgess, Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office says: “Now is the time to act and secure thriving marine communities in the face of climate change. Without urgent action to limit global emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, marine ecosystems and fisheries may fail to survive. Preventing overfishing is a critical part of mitigating the threat climate change poses to global fisheries. It is essential for the EU to act now to avoid the costs of inaction later – to ensure sustainable seafood for future generations and thriving marine ecosystems.”

The WWF briefing describes how climate change is impacting fisheries and food security, and highlights the European Union’s role in mitigating these impacts both for EU citizens and for developing countries. Seafood is the primary protein source for an estimated three billion people globally, while an equal number depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods [1]. In the EU alone, fisheries, tourism and shipping industries provide millions of jobs to coastal communities, forming the backbone of Europe’s blue economy [2]. 

Global seafood consumption has more than doubled over the past 50 years [3] with up to 200 million tonnes of fish predicted to be taken from the sea annually by 2030 [4]. In addition to the increasing demand on ocean resources, scientists warn that warmer marine environments make it more difficult for species to recover their populations, due to shifting habitats and food webs [5]. Despite mounting evidence, very little has been done thus far to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change to marine life and ensure future resilience of our fisheries and  seafood supply. Indeed, strengthening adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries will support sustainable economies, benefitting both humanity and the ocean. 

  1. United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 
  2. Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (European Commission) (2018), The 2018 annual economic report on the EU blue economy
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2016), The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016
  4. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2018), State of the World Fisheries
  5. Nagelkerken & Munday (2016) ‘Animal Behaviour Shapes the Ecological Effects of Ocean Acidification and Warming’. Global Change Biology 22 (3): 974–89

Larissa Milo-Dale
Marine Communications Officer
WWF Policy Briefing: Mitigating climate change impacts on food security from the ocean