Even as the Copenhagen summit on global warming has concluded without finalising binding commitments to combat this challenge, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said the fisheries sector will be hugely affected by climate change, jeopardising food supply and livelihood of a large section of the world’s population.
Some 520 million people rely on fisheries and aquaculture as a source of protein and income. For about 400 million of the poorest of these, fish provides half or more of their animal protein and dietary minerals.
Many fishing and coastal communities already subsist in precarious conditions because of poverty and lack of development. Their well-being is also often undermined by overexploitation of fishery resources and degraded ecosystems.In a statement issued in Rome, the FAO has said both marine and inland fisheries are poorly positioned to withstand the new problems posed by climate change. The former, particularly, may undergo major decline, as it is already facing multiple challenges due to over-fishing, habitat loss and week management.“Small developing island states—which depend on fisheries and aquaculture for at least 50 per cent of their animal protein intake—are in a particularly vulnerable position,” the FAO has cautioned.
Nearly 65 per cent of aquaculture (fish farming) is in the form of inland fisheries and is concentrated mostly in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia. Sea level rise over coming decades will increase upstream salinity in the rivers, adversely affecting river-based fisheries as well, it has said.“Increasing temperatures will have impacts on the physiology of fish due to limited oxygen transport to tissues at higher temperatures. This will result in changes in the distribution of both freshwater and marine species, with most marine species being driven toward the poles, expanding the range of warmer-water species and contracting that of colder-water species,” the report has said.