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World Fish Highlights Dangers of Climate Change

GENERAL - With over 400 million of the world's poorest depending on fish for food, 'climate-proofing' fisheries and aquaculture needs to be high on the climate change agenda. Yet fisheries and aquaculture are conspicuously absent from the climate change debate, even though science shows that climate change poses huge threats to aquatic food production and the poor who depend on it.

Climate change will impact aquatic ecosystems, and alter the distribution and production of fish, says the WorldFishCentre. Fish migration routes, spawning and feeding grounds, and fishing seasons are all likely to change, and the impacts on fishing communities and harvests are uncertain. Inland fisheries are particularly vulnerable to reduced rainfall and river flows, a threat that is likely to be compounded by growing demands for water for irrigation and domestic and industrial use.

According to the WorldFishCentre, extreme weather events will become more frequent, bringing increased risks to coastal fishing communities and aquaculture systems. Farms growing fish and shellfish in coastal Asia are particularly vulnerable and their loss will have dramatic consequences for coastal economies there.

Recent research led by WorldFish has confirmed that the impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture will be felt most acutely in Africa and South Asia. A third of the world's six billion people depend on fish and other aquatic products for at least a fifth of their protein. More than half of the protein and minerals consumed by over 400 million people in the poorest countries of Africa and South Asia come from subsistence and artisanal fisheries. Worldwide, half a billion people depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods, and the vast majority of them live in developing countries. In 2008, the global trade in fish and aquaculture products was worth over US$78 billion.

Because of this, WorldFish is working in partnership with other international organizations to ensure that fisheries and aquaculture are on the agenda at the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009, where the partnership will table a strong sector-wide strategy setting out why fisheries and aquaculture need to be considered and how this can best be done. Leading up to this, WorldFish, the FAO, UNEP and 13 other global and regional organizations have also already highlighted the dangers and opportunities that climate change poses for fisheries and aquaculture at the UNFCCC talks in Bonn this June.

Supporting this policy engagement, WorldFish is building on our previous research on responses of aquatic ecosystems and their dependent people to past climate variability, to help design sound policies and management strategies for fisheries and aquaculture in the face of climate change.

the Fish Site Editor

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