Unchecked climate change could cost fisheries billions

UBC study says aquaculture could exacerbate negative impact on revenues

University of British Columbia researchers say that is climate change continues unchecked that global fisheries stand to lose some $10 billion of their annual revenue by 2050, and countries most dependent on fish for food will be hardest hit.

Climate change impacts rising temperatures and changes in ocean salinity, acidity and oxygen levels are expected to result in decreased catches, as previous research from UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries has found,

The study, lead by postdoctoral fellow Vicky Lam, was published on Sept. 7 in the professional journal Scientific Reports (http://www.nature.com/articles/srep32607)

“It is necessary to implement better marine resources management plans to increase stock resilience to climate change,” Lam said.

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While many communities are considering aquaculture as a solution to ease these losses and improve food security under climate change, UBC researchers said when they examined that growing industry they found it may exacerbate the negative impact on revenues.

According to William Cheung, association professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and a study co-author, climate adaptation programs such as aquaculture development may be seen as a solution. “However, rather than easing the financial burden of fishing losses and improving food security, it may drive down the price of seafood, leading to further decreases in fisheries revenue,” he said.

Researchers used climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to examine the economic impact of climate change on fish stocks and fisheries revenues under two emission scenarios. In a high emission scenario, the rates continue to rise unchecked, while a low emission scenario meant ocean warming is kept under two degrees Celsius.

“Global fisheries revenues amount to about $100 billion every year,” noted another co-author, Rashid Sumaila, a professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and Liu Institute for Global Studies. “Our modeling shows that a high emissions scenario could reduce global fishing revenue by an average of 10 percent, while a low emissions scenario could reduce revenues by 7 percent.”