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Climate Change and Fishing in the Pacific

12 June 2012

GLOBAL - Fifteen countries and territories are meeting in Noumea this week to discuss how climate change will affect Pacific fisheries and how they can ensure fishing and aquaculture will continue contributing to their food security, livelihoods and community development.

The meeting was organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Food and Agriculture Organisation (SPC) of the United Nations, reports SaipanTribune.

Senior fisheries officers and national focal points for climate change in Pacific Island countries and territories, not-for-profit organisations and funding bodies are attending.

Mike Batty, director of SPC's Fisheries Division, said that countries need to take action now, as changes are already being felt and will gather pace in future.

“Tuna, reef and freshwater fisheries will all be affected as the oceans get warmer and more acidic,” he said. “The changes will affect economies, jobs and food, and countries of the region have to plan to minimise potential damage and maximise new opportunities.”

Cassandra De Young, FAO Fishing Planning Analyst, said climate change will compound existing pressures on fisheries and aquaculture.

“The question of how to meet existing demand for fish while ensuring the resilience of these systems and their dependent communities in the face of climate change poses a great challenge for fisheries and aquaculture management,” she said.

Mr Batty said that, according to research so far:

  • skipjack tuna are expected to move to the eastern Pacific and catches will increase;
  • bigeye tuna catches are likely to decline;
  • coral reefs will be severely affected and reef fishing will decline; and
  • there should be new opportunities in freshwater aquaculture.

Research results were published by SPC last November in the book Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change. SPC's Dr Johann Bell was the lead editor of this comprehensive study, which brought together assessments by 90 scientists and fisheries and aquaculture specialists from throughout the Asia and Pacific region.

The workshop looked in detail at the implications of the projected changes, and possible actions the countries of the Pacific could take.

“The best strategy is to get fisheries in the region in the best possible shape to cope with the stresses coming our way,” Mr Batty said.

He said countries should move now to reduce fishing to sustainable levels, and take positive action to protect coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses and inter-tidal flats from threats such as sediment runoff from mining and forestry operations.

American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna are all represented at the meeting.

AusAID and the governments of New Caledonia, Japan and Sweden provided support for the meeting.

Both SPC and FAO are members of the Global Partnership for Climate, Fisheries and Aquaculture.

TheFishSite News Desk



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