Climate change, climate variability and marine fishing communities

The small-scale, artisanal fishing communities are already threatened by pollution, degradation, displacement and loss of marine biodiversity, on the one hand, and by increasing competition for fishing space and fishery resources from large-scale, destructive and non-selective fishing gear and practices, on the other. These threats are now further aggravated by climate change and variability threats.

The potential impacts of climate stress in the form of climate change and variability are believed to pose new threats, raise new challenges to the small-scale, artisanal fisheries sector and fishing communities, especially along the lower latitudes, worldwide. If carbon di oxide emission is indeed a driver of global warming, it is forecasted to lead to ocean acidification. This can degrade tropical coral reefs and shell fish with adverse consequences for fishing communities. Changes in sea surface temperature -- another potential long-term impact of global warming -- may induce a latitudinal extension, or shift, in the distribution of certain pelagic fish species, such as mackerel and sardine, that may add to the costs of their fishing operations.

The potential local-level impacts of climate variability events, such as severe storm, increased precipitation and flooding, variations in salinity, seasonal drought and extreme temperature, are further believed to threaten local availability of fish species, aggravate sea safety conditions, and also add to the costs of fishing operations, and reduce access to the fishing ground. Degradation of farm lands due to drought conditions, or due to too much precipitation, could also lead to increasing migration of farm workers into fishing. These potential threats to the marine fishery-based livelihoods of coastal fishing communities can be further exacerbated by increasing incidence of storm and floods that can threaten housing, fishing assets, marinas and social infrastructure.

Monitoring climate change and variability issues is essential for a full assessment of threats facing fishing communities. It is important to draw attention to climate change and variability impacts on fishing communities as and when they happen, as well as to assist in developing programmes for climate preparedness in the form of appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies and measures, so as to reduce vulnerability of coastal small-scale, artisanal fishing communities to climate stress, and in the process to contribute to protecting their life and livelihoods.