Fifteen countries and territories and their development partners met in Noumea last week for a joint Secretariat of the Pacific Community / Food and Agriculture Organization workshop to discuss how climate change will affect Pacific fisheries and aquaculture.The participants were senior fisheries officers and national focal points for climate change in Pacific Island countries and territories, not-for-profit organisations and funding bodies. They were interested to know how the plans to optimise the benefits of fisheries and aquaculture for economic development, food security and livelihoods could be affected by climate change, and how the sector can adapt to retain these benefits.
The four-day workshop was based on transferring the results of SPC's recent vulnerability assessment, entitled Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change, to the heads of fisheries departments and national focal points for climate change and disaster risk management.
The workshop was organised around presentations of the key messages by many of the authors of the book, followed by small group discussions to identify priority adaptations to reduce the threats of climate change and capitalise on opportunities.
Key messages from the meeting included the projection that catches of skipjack tuna are expected to increase in the eastern Pacific due to climate change, whereas catches of bigeye tuna are likely to decline across the region.
Participants also heard that coral reefs are very likely to be severely degraded by rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification, resulting in lower catches from coastal fisheries. On the other hand, increased rainfall and warmer temperatures are expected to enhance production from freshwater aquaculture.
The workshop raised awareness of the implications of climate change for fisheries and aquaculture in the region and the tools available to understand the vulnerability of enterprises and communities to these changes.
Ten priority actions needed to assist the sector adapt to climate variability, climate change and the risk of natural disasters identified during discussions at the workshop are:
- manage tuna fisheries to conserve stocks;
- strengthen regional arrangements to cap and trade fishing effort for tuna;
- diversify sources of tuna for canneries;
- reduce the energy used by industrial tuna fishing vessels;
- manage and restore vegetation in catchments to protect coastal fish habitats;
- keep harvests of coastal fish within sustainable limits
- increase access to tuna for coastal communities with inshore fish aggregating devices;
- develop fisheries for small pelagic fish;
- expand freshwater pond aquaculture;
- improve post-harvest methods.