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Seafood Industry under Threat from Climate Change and Ocean Acidification

SeafoodA new briefing issued on May 28 distils the key findings from the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and reveals the growing threat of climate change and ocean acidification to marine resources.

The briefing, published jointly by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Judge Business School, and supported by the European Climate Foundation, reveals that:

  • The total loss of landings to global fisheries by 2050 due to climate change range from USD 17 to 41 billion based on a global warming scenario of 2 degrees.
  • Fishery yields will increase 30-70% in high latitudes but fall by 40-60% in the Tropics and Antarctica based on 2 degrees of warming. Large species like tuna in the Pacific and Indian oceans are likely to move eastwards.
  • 400 hundred million people depend critically on fish for their food and face reduced access to marine protein because of climate change and ocean acidification. Artisanal fishermen in the Tropics are most at risk.
  • Changes in the distribution of particular marine species may lead to conflict between fishing nations and significant increases in illegal fishing.
  • The impacts of climate change and ocean acidification are generally exacerbated by other factors like pollution, habitat loss and overfishing.

The briefing, and an associated infographic, is being distributed across the seafood industry with a call for action to address this global threat.

Commenting on the report, Chris Brown, Senior Director, Sustainable Business, Asda Walmart, said: “There is a growing threat of climate change and acidification to the marine resources upon which we rely. This report is a timely reminder of the pace of change in the oceans and the need for those of us with direct and indirect stakes in the seafood industry to promote action at every level.”

Blake Lee-Harwood of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership added: “This report is a wake-up call for the seafood industry to recognise the scale of the threat to ocean resources from climate change and acidification. We need to see urgent action in trying to mitigate the likely impacts while adapting wherever that’s practically possible.”

Eliot Whittington of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership said, “This briefing highlights the business-critical implications of climate change for the fisheries sector, representing tens of billions of dollars in future costs and damages for the industry. Companies in this sector will have to take the implications of climate science into account as they plan for the future. We hope that this briefing, developed with experts from both business and science, will help them do so.”

The briefing cites areas where action can be taken to lessen the impact of climate change:

  • Adapt where possible – for instance, some shellfish hatcheries in the northwest USA have learned to avoid taking in seawater during periods of high acidity.
  • Undertake vulnerability assessments of fisheries and aquaculture operations.
  • Strengthen coastal zone management to reduce land-sourced pollution, over-harvesting and physical damage to resources.
  • Create new habitats such as artificial reefs to act as fish nurseries in areas where coral reef destruction occurs.

The report, titled “Climate Change: Implications for Fisheries and Aquaculture”, is available at www.sustainablefish.org and www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/ipcc and is accompanied by an infographic which summarizes the situation.


Source: Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.



The report is one of a series of thirteen, based upon The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). AR5 represents the most comprehensive overview of climate science to date and is the fact base that will be used by governments and businesses to formulate climate policy in the coming years. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership,  the European Climate Foundation, the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and the Cambridge Judge Business School have worked together to distil relevant AR5 findings into concise, clear, relevant findings and visuals derived from, and in line with, the original text.

The set of summaries cover the broad implications of climate change, how the IPCCC works and give an overview of the physical science, as well as adaptation and mitigation options. The specific summaries cover the energy sector, investors and financial institutions, the transport sector, the tourism industry, the agricultural sector, fisheries and aquaculture, the defence sector, primary industries and cities, buildings and employment.

The full set of summaries will be posted at www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/ipcc in the coming weeks.