Thursday, 12 February 2009

World fisheries threatened

map: Worldfish Center
33 of the poorest countries of the world, where fish is a key source of protein, are threatened by climate change, says a study just released by the Worldfish Center. The world’s least developed countries are twice as dependent on fish: they get 27% of protein from lakes, coasts and reefs compared to 13% elsewhere.

Photo: women are half of Africa's fishers: UN Africa Renewal program

Climate change is drying lakes, killing ocean reefs, pushing salt water into freshwater habitats and producing more coastal storms. Over a billion of the hungry poor in Africa, Asia and South America will be affected. The survey of 132 countries says Malawi, Guinea, Senegal, Uganda, Peru, Colombia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Yemen are most at risk. Climate change will be devastating, but without international aid (which has been stingy or nonexistent for decades) they will be unable to cope.

Somalia is an example of the conflict that can result. With government unable to control its waters, unscrupulous international fleets cleaned out its coastal fisheries. Desperate fishermen turned to piracy, attacking and seizing ships, whose ransoms cost millions of dollars. Now piracy has become big business, and will be difficult to eradicate. What will happen when 33 countries start fighting over scarce resources, and their climate refugees search desperately to survive?

Red indicates overfished, yellow fully exploited: FAO graph.

Note: Somalia was overfished by rogue commercial fleets, bankrupting their domestic fishers and encouraging piracy. Similar problems are reported in Senegal and other West African coasts, where half of the EU's fish supply is taken. Tanzania, Somalia, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu are also targeted. The rich are eating up the food of the poor. International regulation of rogue fleets is still being "negotiated" 27 years after the Law of the Sea was agreed. See the FAO list of endangered fish stocks, Wikipedia on IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing) and Greenpeace IUU Blacklist which states: "International enforcement could shut down this trade. The owners and operators are not impossible to track down. 80 different countries play host to them – including the European Union and Taiwan, Japan, EU member states, Korea, the US, and increasingly China and the Philippines." Panama, Belize and Honduras offer flags of convenience. International financiers of the rogue fleets have yet to be named or held responsible.

See also: Andrew Purvis updates in UK Observer 26 Apr 09 and 27 Apr 09; the World Wildlife Fund, The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk (May 2009) warns that Asia's coral reefs from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia down to Australia are dying, threatening the food supply of 100 million.

No comments: