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A school of barracuda photographed in the ocean waters off Palau’s Rock Islands.
Sustainable Coastal Fisheries A school of barracuda photographed in the ocean waters off Palau’s Rock Islands. © Ian Shive

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New study shows high risk to fisheries from climate change

Today, The Nature Conservancy, Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft and the University of California Santa Cruz launch their joint report, “Fisheries at Risk: Vulnerability of Fisheries to Climate Change”, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety’s International Climate Initiative.

As a key source of income and food, fisheries are vital to many people in coastal regions. The centerpiece of the new report is an index that assesses climate-related risk to coastal fisheries in 143 countries. The Fisheries@Risk Index determines risk to fisheries based on a combination of exposure to hazards and vulnerability to the impacts of those hazards. Various environmental factors such as ocean acidification, sea temperature change, sea level rise, storms and wave action are considered in this assessment.

"The Fisheries@Risk Index results show the highly uneven geographic distribution between the two risk components of exposure and vulnerability," said Dr. Nadine Heck of East Carolina University, lead author of the new report. The report shows that climate hazard hotspots (exposure) will concentrate primarily in northern Europe and Southeast Asia. However, when accounting for fisher and fish stock vulnerability, we see that western and southeastern Africa, as well as parts of Southeast Asia are most at risk. The combination of exposure and vulnerability results in a comprehensive global risk profile for national fisheries sectors.

"To reduce the risks to fisheries and also to fish stocks, the international community needs to focus more on long-term climate adaptation strategies," says Peter Mucke, executive director of the German humanitarian alliance, Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft. The report shows where improved strategies are needed to limit overfishing when stocks decline or shift geographically due to climate change. Additionally, it highlights the need for diversification of fisheries in terms of species fished and fishing gear in order to protect small-scale fisheries, which are most vulnerable.

Click here to download the full Technical Report and Summary Report.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.