RAPIDLY CHANGING CLIMATE THREATENS THE GLOBE’S FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE

  1. Introduction:

On September 2019 the United Nations General Assembly held a Climate Action Summit and expected it to become a forum to hold countries accountable to the international commitments they made to cut global warming as part of “Paris Climate Agreement’ of 2015 ”during which it was recognized that there is a need for effective and progressive responses to the threat on the globe’s rapidly changing climate taking into account the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems.Also, at the Summit it was pointed out that “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction” and that “it could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work”.It is believed that climate change,if continues to be unchecked will eventually have a heavy negative impact on global fisheries and aquaculture activities as well as food security, shortages in food supplies which may lead to malnutrition, poverty, food insecurity and aquaculture production systems.Fisheries around the world will have to deal with the consequences of shifting stocks and lower overall ocean productivity, even as the exact ramifications vary from region to region.The UN Summit again is making efforts to let the countries of the world to realize that climate change is already hurting the availability of food because of decreased yields and lossof land from erosion, displacement of people, loss of critical areas of food production, desertification and rising sea levels at a more rapid pace than previously thought.If emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, multiple threats will affect the livelihood of millions of people around the world.  Due to the continued efforts to tackle global climate change, the annual upcoming UN Climate ChangeSummit, COP25,  which represents the world’s biggest annual conference on climate change issues which was due to be held early December  in Chile, the venue has now changed to Madrid, Spain during the period 2-13 December 2019. The international community concerned with climate change has been alarmed at this delicate stage, where scientific and natural indicators are multiplying and the risks posed by global warming. Participation is expected be more than 25 thousand people.

  • The main issues behind Climate Change:

According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change the average temperature of the earth’s surface has risen by 0.74°C since the late 1800s, and is expected to increase by another 1.8°C to 4°C by the year 2100. The Paris Agreement of 2015 central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The main causes of global warming are believed to be due to industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to meet increasing energy demands, and the spread of intensive agriculture to meet increasing food demand, which is often accompanied by deforestation. Furthermore, this global warming is believed to be also due to the increase of heat-trapping “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere, in particular CO2, methane & nitrous oxide. Whilst “greenhouse gases” occur naturally and are critical for life on earth, in augmented and increasing quantities they are believed pushing the global temperature to artificially high levels & altering the climate. Moreover, the process of global warming shows no signs of abating and is expected to bring about long term changes in weather conditions,  as a 2008  FAO report says.Human-driven climate change has made the oceans hotter and more acidic, depleting them of oxygen and kneecapping their ability to produce life – a trend that will only continue if greenhouse gas emissions keep rising.The ocean covers more than 70% of the planet’s surface, regulates the Earth’s climate, produces a large proportion of the oxygen in our atmosphere and is the major source of food proteins for over a billion people. However, it is increasingly affected by global changes and degraded marine ecosystems are under persistent and growing risk of further damage from microbiological and chemical pollution, overexploitation, and climate change.

Acomprehensive new report from the United Nations says that the entire marine food web and the fisheries that depend on it are threatened by climate change, and the only way to limit the severity of the disruption is by dramatically cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The costs and risks of delaying action are escalating. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released on 25 September 2019 and focused on the impacts of climate change on the oceans. It points out that the consequences of climate change are already apparent, and will grow more severe if humanity does not take action soon. 

  • What climate change means to Fisheries and Aquaculture:

Marine Fisheries are affected by warming oceans which is likely could  spark international conflict over fisheries as it is forcing fish species to migrate in search of colder waters, says a new study. Climate change is forcing fish species to shift their habitats faster than the world’s system for allocating fish stocks, according to the new research published in the journal Science. Fisheries face a serious new challenge with climate change driving oceans to conditions not experienced historically.

According to ClimateCentral.orgit points out that Antarctica and Greenland combined hold so much ice if all melted sea levels would rise by 80 meters and are already melting faster and faster. The study also says that future sea levels rise most rapidly in 10 countries. These are ranked by severity and the estimated number of people living within 6m. of sea level who will be displaced. These are China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Japan, United States, Egypt, Brazil and the Netherlands.

“The right to harvest particular species of fish is often decided by national and regional fisheries management bodies. Those bodies have made the rules based on the notion that particular fish species live in particular waters and don’t move much. Well, they’re moving now because climate change is warming ocean temperatures,” said lead researcher, assistant professor MalinPinsky from Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey, US, who led the study. Many commercially important fish species could move their range hundreds of kilometers northwards and the movement has already begun, according to the research.

Aquaculture role in global food supply and sustainability implicationsin marked contrast with capture fisheries where the bulk of the fish species harvested are marine carnivorous fish species positioned high in the aquatic food chain, the mainstay of farmed fish production are freshwater omnivorous and herbivorous fish species positioned low in the aquatic food, including carps, tilapia and catfishes. Moreover whereas marine capture fisheries have been feeding the world on high trophic level carnivorous fish species since mankind has been fishing the oceans, aquaculture production within developing countries has focused, by and large, on the production of lower trophic level species – but this is changing. Like capture fisheries, aquaculture focus within the economically developed countries has been essentially on the culture of high value, high trophic level-carnivorous fish species. The long term sustainability of these production systems is questionable unless the industry can reduce its dependence upon capture fisheries for sourcing raw materials for feed formulation and seed inputs. A new study warns coastal nations to expect their potential for aquaculture production to decline over time, as water temperatures increase and oceans undergo other shifts, such as acidification.

It is believed that marine fish species have already shifted into new territories and these shifts could accelerate in the future. While this would lead to the appearance of new fisheries in several countries which could lead that the changes of fisheries resources would also lead to conflict over newly shared resources which could also mean conflicts that would not only spill over into international tensions over trade, borders and sovereignty, but could also lead to over-fishing, threaten the food supply and reduce profit and employment worldwide. Inland fisheries are also highly vulnerable to climate change because of the low buffering capacity of water bodies including river basins. Climate change imperils the structure and function of already stressed coastal aquatic ecosystems. Estuaries, coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds are critical for production of wild fish. In freshwater systems, ecosystem health and productivity is linked to water quality and flow and the health of wetlands.Some studies reached indicate that small island developing states and the world’s least developed countries will be among the places most vulnerable to climate change’s impact on marine life and where alternative livelihood options may be limited. In most coastal communities, fishing is not only an important source of nutrition but also of economic security.

The impact on climate change is not only on the small islands and undeveloped countries but rather on developed countries as well. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published in June 2019 Europe’s waters are expected to lose 30% of their already vulnerable ocean life to further warming. Combined with over fishing, that loss can threaten livelihood and food security in coastal nations. The study also estimates that the Earth’s oceans will lose 5% of marine animals globally for every degree of warming, even without taking into account the broader impacts of fishing.

  • Effects of Climate Change on Seafood supplies:

The many species and varieties of seafood, whether captured or cultured plays an important role in human nutrition and global food supply, particularly within the diet and food security of the poor and needy as a source of much needed essential dietary nutrients. It currently represents a major source of animal protein to an estimated for about 1.25 billion people within about 40 countries worldwide.Moreover, with the world population expected to grow by another 2.5 billion by 2050, there are growing doubts as to the long term sustainability of many existing agriculture and aquaculture food production systems to meet the increasing global demand for food.

Of the different agricultural food production systems, agriculture and aquaculture is widely viewed as an important weapon in the global fight against malnutrition and poverty, particularly within developing countries where over 93% of global production is currently realized; the aquaculture sector providing in most instances an affordable & much needed food source rich in essential nutrients.

  • Climate Change poses real threats to food security concerns:

Climate change if not dealt with may intensify food insecurity which most developing countries are working to insure food security in their countries.  Climate change could further decrease local agricultural productivity and make global food prices increasingly volatile, further politicizing the issue of food security. Climate change imperils the structure and function of already stressed coastal aquatic ecosystems. Estuaries, coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds are critical for production of wild fish. In freshwater systems, ecosystem health and productivity is linked to water quality and flow and the health of wetlands.

Furthermore, climate change may hinder economic growth, thereby worsening poverty and social instability: The combination of higher unemployment reduced government revenue and increased demands on services, as an indirect result of climate change, could weaken governments’ ability to provide services and create jobs, in turn potentially creating the conditions for extremism of all kinds, increased crime and social breakdown.

  • Arab coastal areas most affected by Climate Change:

Egypt’s Nile Delta with its coastal front on the Mediterranean is considered vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As noted above Egypt is the eighth exposed country expected to be highly affected by rising sea levels. The Nile Delta may be turning into a salt water wasteland affecting the ancient city of Alexandria because of the rising sea level. The northern Egyptian lakes are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.Since the lakes are relatively shallow, climate change can lead to an increase in water temperature, which could result in changes in the lakes ecosystems and changes in yield.Also shoreline erosion stresses on fisheries and saltwater intrusion in groundwater create major challenges. Fragile and unique ecosystems such as the mangrove stands in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf, which stabilize shorelines and provide a habitat for many species, may also be threatened.

The Arabian Gulf coastlines may lose up to 12 per cent of its marine biodiversity in some areas before the end of the century if countries in the region do not take measures to address climate change. According to scientists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Australia, a business-as-usual climate scenario will severely affect species richness off the coast of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by the end of the century.

The World Bank Group has a plan for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region where most Arab countries are geographically located by increasing its financing portion to combat climate change.  The MENA countries are aware of their vulnerabilities and have begun taking action to confront the impacts of climate change, but the challenges are enormous. Some of the consequences are evident when snow falls in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, drought in Morocco, extreme summer temperatures reaching 54°C in Kuwait, and Sea level are expected to rise bringing worsening flooding of rapidly urbanizing coastal and delta areas. Rising seas will cause salt-water intrusion into coastal aquifers, degrading water for drinking and irrigation. Furthermore, the Word Bank says that this has become the new normal of extreme weather caused by climate change and as global temperatures rise, they will rise event faster in MENA region. Climate conditions will become even more extreme in a region that is already the hottest and driest on earth.

Moreover, the Mediterranean region in its southern and eastern coastlines where several Arab countries are locatedis exposed to several natural risks.  In this complex situation, the Mediterranean faces new challenges, due to global climate change. Based on global climate scenarios, the Mediterranean Sea has been classified as one of the most responsive regions to climate change. Depending on the climate scenario (RCP: Representative Concentration Pathway) and the season, a rise in temperature from 2 to 6 ° C by 2100 is expected in the Mediterranean (for summer temperatures. High temperature events and heat waves are likely to become more frequent and/or more extreme.

In a recent interview Mr. GraminosMastrogini, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean for Energy and Climate Affairs, warns of the consequences of climate change. He said at the end of a related conference held recently in Barcelona that climate change surrounds us from every corner, from international halls and regional meetings. He pointed out that the Mediterranean region “does not realize the good fortune that has accompanied it for thousands of years”. Recently the Union unveiled a study confirming that the temperature in the Mediterranean region has increased by about 1.5°C since the pre-industrial era or 20 percent faster than the global average. It concluded that if no further measures were taken to curb this rise, the temperature in the region would increase by 2.2 ° C by 2040. It may exceed 3.8 ° C in some sub regions by 2100.

  • Economic impact on Climate Change

The Oxford Review of Environmental Economics and Policy published a study in 2018 in which it concludes that the “current estimates indicate that climate change will likely have a limited impact on the economy and human welfare in the twenty-first century. In fact, the initial impacts of climate change may well be positive. However, in the long run the negative impacts dominate the positive ones. Negative impacts will be substantially greater in poorer, hotter, and lower-lying countries. Poverty reduction complements greenhouse gas emissions reduction as a means to reduce climate change impacts. Although climate change may affect the growth rate of the global economy and may trap more people in poverty, quantification of these impacts remains difficult”. While this conclusion seemed to be that changing climate phenomenon worldwide in the short run could have some advantages but in the longer run the negative results especially on the poorer developing countries will bring disasters and increase poverty in the various aspects of the lives of the people in these poor regions which the strategies to combat the challenges of climate change are urgently required. 

  • Strategies to combat the challenges of Climate Change:

The challenges of climate change and security on the affected countries are overwhelming to say the least.These challenges, with different levels of impacts require urgent actions by national governments and authorities, civil society and the international community in order to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts, manage increasingly scarce resources and foster greater cooperation on their shared resources.

The United Nations’ Global Goal 13 urges all countries to take rapid and dramatic climate action to prevent catastrophic environmental consequences. Some countries are stepping up to confront this crisis, but it’s going to take a lot more than just strong words to drive significant change.

Global emissions are at an all-time high and the past four years were the hottest on record. Unusual climate changes phenomena are increasing globally at a rapid rate. Climate Change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones, aggravating water management problems, reducing agricultural production and food security, increasing health risks, damaging critical infrastructure and interrupting the provision of basic services such as water and sanitation, education, energy and transport. Forest fires and floods in several parts of the world are becoming more regular such as in California, Portugal, France, Japan and other countries worldwide.The impacts of sea level rise, as a direct result of global warming, will see hundreds of millions of people displaced from coastal towns and entire islands eradicated. Global Citizen Campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, including Goal 13provided the data and statistics in the following facts and figures:

  • From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C;
  • Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded. The Arctic’s sea ice extent has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979;
  • Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990; and
  • Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.

Consequently the following targets need to be met:

  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disaster; 
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning;
  • Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning;
  • Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization; and
  • Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and Small Island developing states, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.
  • Urgent action is required:

The message is clear: climate change threatens marine fishes and the stability of global fisheries including fisheries resources in the Arab region and other countries around the world. This underlines yet another reason to urgently reduce carbon emissions and utilize clean energy to power the future. Climate change impacts such as more frequent and severe floods and droughts will affect the food and water security of many people. The impact and consequences of climate change on aquatic ecosystems, fisheries and aquaculture – and on the people that depend on them – remain uncertain and less well-known. The traditional fisheries sector operates in coastal areas therefore a call for action to minimize the effects of climate change on Arab region’s fisheries resources is urgently required. This call for urgent action also requires full support from international organizations as well as relevant Arab official institutions to the bodies operating in the region dedicated to protect the sustainability of the fisheries resources and the environment. The relevant major organizations include FAO established fisheries bodies: Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) of which the GCC States and Iran are members; the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) in which membership includes Arab states bordering the eastern and southern shores of the  Mediterranean, the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA) headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as well as the relevant national and international fisheries and environmental organizations concerned. Support to these bodies will contribute in stabilizing and reviving the depleting fisheries stocks and save the resources for future generations by employing responsible fisheries operations.

It should be pointed out, however, that several international actions towards combating climate change havebegun. In October 2019 the sixth “Our Ocean Conference” held in Norway generated 370 pledges for a clean, healthy and productive oceans. The Governments made 62% of commitments, representing 7% of total funding. The private sector made 16 commitments, or 61 commitments, and these totaled 79% of total funding of U.S. $ 50.3 million. Furthermore during an international conference held on 24 October in Geneva, the head of the Global Fund to fight diseases concluded that climate change is making it harder to eradicate deadly epidemics due to rising temperatures. Other consequences were noted to increase risk of disease from direct climate change.  Finally, those responsible for combating climate change must work on the reversal of the consequences of global warming, which is powerful threat to the planet and humanity.Rising sea levels are not only about an existential threat to the small and low-lying islands but also to developed countries. Climate change also threatens an economic if major fisheries were toextinct. Small island countries are on the frontline of being swallowed into an abyss, created initially by human activity and increasingly by inaction. Climate change has a global consensusand therefore meeting the challenge with global efforts is commonly accepted.  With this in mind world leaders should realize the urgency of the situation buttressed with willingness, preparedness and funding.

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