Aquaculture for all

Caribbean Fisheries Vulnerable To Climate Change


CARIBBEAN - Analysis in the SEI journal Climate and Development predicts severe negative impacts, including loss and alteration of habitats, smaller and less-diverse fish stocks, and coral bleaching, and urges prompt action to help the regions fishers prepare.

The review, ‘The implications of global climate change for fisheries management in the Caribbean’ is authored by Leonard Nurse, Ph.D., senior lecturer at the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of the West Indies and a member of the scientific team of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Fisheries employ nearly 200,000 people in the Caribbean Community alone, Mr Nurse notes, earning USD $5 billion to $6 billion per year in foreign exchange and providing about 10 per cent of the region’s protein intake. Recreational fishing and dive tourism are also major revenue sources; in 2000, one study estimated, dive tourism based on coral reefs brought in about USD $2.1 billion. For Tobago alone, coral reefs drew USD $43.5 million in 2006, or 15 per cent of GDP.

Mr Nurse, whose specialty is gauging climate impacts on small island states, writes that although there is a ‘dearth of research’ on the specific effects of climate change Caribbean fisheries, broader studies and observations in other regions provide plenty of grounds for concern.

Expected changes:

Global climate models suggest that average temperatures in the Caribbean will rise by 0.5–1.0°C by 2039, 0.8–2.5°C from 2040 to 2069, and 0.94–4.8°C between 2070 and 2099, Mr Nurse writes, and similar trends in sea surface temperatures are expected.

Warming waters are a primary cause of coral bleaching, Mr Nurse notes. Many Caribbean islands have reported ‘significant’ bleaching, and the problem is expected to become more severe, with negative impacts on the diversity and size of fish communities. There is also evidence that worldwide, species are moving poleward as sea temperatures rise. Plankton mass has declined in many areas, leaving fish without the food they need. Warming waters and changing ocean circulation patterns may also alter the length and timing of spawning seasons, and could lead to higher fish mortality.

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