Climate change to affect fish stock, says new book

National, Normal

The National, Thursday 10th November 2011

THERE will be winners and losers from climate change, according to a new book.
And the way Pacific governments react and adapt will be vital, said one of the three editors of the book Vulnerability of tropical Pacific fisheries and aquaculture to climate change.
The book is published by the secretariat of the Pacific Community and was launched at the Conference of the Pacific Community in Noumea by James Batley, deputy director general of AusAID.
One of the book’s three editors, Dr Johann Bell, who is the principal fisheries scientist with SPC’s strategic engagement, policy and planning facility says the losers include those who continue to depend on coral reef fisheries.
“Higher sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and loss of important habitats like coral reefs, sea-grass beds, mangroves and inter-tidal flats are expected to have a dramatic impact on the fish and shellfish that support many coastal communities,” Bell said.
“Coral reefs are very likely to suffer a lot of damage due to the changing climate, and coastal communities will have to find new sources of food.”
He said the communities needed to transfer their fishing effort from coral reef fisheries to the rich tuna resources of the region.
A winner under climate change will be the freshwater fisheries that are so important to the inland population of Papua New Guinea, he said.
Heads of government, ministers and ambassadors from 22 Pacific island countries and territories, plus Australia, France, New Zealand and the USA are in Noumea to discuss the impact of climate change on food and drinking water. It is one of the most critical issues facing the Pacific region today.
The book also outlines the expected improvement of conditions for freshwater pond aquaculture.
But this will not be enough to feed the rapidly increasing populations of the Pacific islands, and they need to rely more on tuna as a source of food.
SPC director-general Dr Jimmie Rogers says the book is the most comprehensive analysis of the impact of climate change on Pacific fisheries and aquaculture, and the ecosystems that underpin these vital activities.
“The reality is that there will be countries in the Pacific with increased populations and fewer fish to eat.
“We ignore the book at our peril because it contains sound scientific analysis, hard-hitting key messages and policy options,” he said.
“It gives Pacific leaders the opportunity to look 20 years ahead and plan for the future.”
Bell said the final chapter in the book sets out ways that the Pacific nations could adapt.
These include installing more fish aggregating devices to attract tuna closer to shore, encouraging communities to grow fish in freshwater ponds, and improving management of mining and forestry industries to prevent sediments and nutrients from spoiling fish habitat.
The book includes contributions from 88 international scientists and fisheries specialists and took three and a half years to put together.
The book was written with the support of AusAID.
It is edited by Dr Johann Bell, Johanna Johnson and Alistair Hobday.