‘Staggering’ new report on climate change is bad news for fisheries

Date: September 25, 2019

Source: Undercurrent News

A new report has warned the rate and magnitude of changes to the ocean, glaciers, and ice sheets due to climate change are happening much faster than previously predicted.

In response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on “the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate”, Andrew Norton, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said:

“This report’s findings are staggering. The rate and magnitude of change to the ocean, glaciers and ice sheets are happening much faster than previously predicted. The climate emergency must be met with equally accelerated action.”

The science clearly shows the effects on the ocean will disproportionately hit tropical areas, which are home to the highest concentration of people living in poverty, he said. Their lives and livelihoods ― particularly small-scale fishers ― are at risk from rising sea levels, ocean warming, acidification and plummeting catches of fish.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) said it was seeing the impact of rapid climate change, “with even some of the most well-managed fisheries struggling to cope with stock fluctuations, in part due to climate change”.

For example, recent declines in North Sea cod stocks have been in attributed to fewer cod reaching maturity, in part as a result of climate change, it said. “And changes in ocean dynamics have affected the distribution of mackerel in the northeast Atlantic, driving the fish further north into cooler seas, resulting in challenges with the joint management of this stock.”

The MSC urged the fishing industry and governments to urgently step up cooperation efforts to ensure the health and productivity of oceans in the context of climate change.

“The IPCC report demonstrates that progress towards sustainable fisheries management is now more urgent than ever before,” said Hans Nieuwenhuis, regional director for northern Europe at the MSC.

“Sustainable, well-managed fisheries which have effective monitoring, regulation and management systems in place are more resilient and able to adapt to climate change. Yet globally governments and fisheries managers are already struggling to reach consensus on how to manage ocean resources in a way which reflects the new reality of changing climates.”

“Taking a precautionary approach to setting catches and evolving fishing practices to reflect changing scientific advice and migration patterns is not easy but it must be done if we are to continue to enjoy the plentiful seafood and preserve marine life.”

The suspension of MSC certification of northeast Atlantic mackerel earlier this year demonstrates the challenge in reaching international consensus on managing fishing stocks that are moving across geopolitical boundaries, noted MSC.

Following the rapid change in the distribution of mackerel since 2007, coastal states have been unable to agree catch quotas in line with scientific advice. To resolve this issue, the mackerel fisheries have committed to delivering an effective harvest strategy and well-defined harvest control rules by mid-2020. 

IIED too called on “rich countries” to step up their response to tackling climate change. “The countries most able and historically responsible urgently need to make bigger cuts in emissions, transfer appropriate technologies and provide the money they committed to help developing countries cope with the climate crisis.”

Read full IPCC report

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