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Fisheries: The Nations at Risk of Climate Peril

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GLOBE - Research on Fisheries Worldwide Warns Climate Change Combined with Fisheries Dependency and Limited Capacity to Adapt Pose Dangerous Triple Threat to Countries in Africa, South America, and Asia.

With climate change threatening to destroy coral reefs, push salt water into freshwater habitats and produce more coastal storms, millions of struggling people in fishery-dependent nations of Africa, Asia and South America could face unprecedented hardship, according to a new study published today in the February issue of the peer-reviewed journal Fish and Fisheries.

The study, by a team of scientists at the WorldFish Center, the University of East Anglia, Simon Fraser University, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the University of Bremen, and the Mekong River Commission, is the first to identify individual nations that are highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change on fisheries.

The authors of the report examined 132 national economies to determine which are the most vulnerable, based on environmental, fisheries, dietary and economic factors. Countries that need the most attention, they said, are not necessarily the places that will experience the greatest environmental impacts on their fisheries.

Rather, they are countries where fish play a large role in diet, income and trade yet there is a lack of capacity to adapt to problems caused by climate changesuch as loss of coral reef habitats to the bleaching effects of warmer waters and lakes parched by an increase in heat and a decrease in precipitation. For example, fish accounts for 27 per cent or more of daily protein intake in vulnerable countriescompared to 13 percent in non-vulnerable nationsand there are scant resources for alternative sources of protein.

Both coastal and landlocked countries in Africa, including Malawi, Guinea, Senegal and Uganda, four Asian tropical countriesBangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Yemenand two countries in South America, Peru and Colombia, were identified as the most economically vulnerable to the effects of global warming on fisheries. Overall, of the 33 countries that were considered highly vulnerable, 19 are already classified by the United Nations as least developed due to their particularly poor socioeconomic conditions.

The worlds fisheries provide more than 2.6 billion people with at least 20 percent of their average annual per capita protein intake, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The highly vulnerable countries identified in the WorldFish

study, which was funded by the United Kingdoms Department for International Development (DFID), produce 20 percent of the worlds fish exports (by value). The researchers note that these countries should be a priority for adaptation efforts that will allow them to endure the effects of climate change and maintain or enhance the contribution that fisheries can make to poverty reduction.

From a strictly environmental perspective, countries in the higher latitudes will see the most pronounced impact from climate change on fishing, said Edward Allison, director of policy, economics and social science at WorldFish and the papers lead author. But economically, people in the tropics and subtropics likely will suffer most, because fish are so important in their diets and because they have limited capacity to develop other sources of income and food.

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