Livelihoods of billions threatened by overfishing and climate change, new UNDP report finds

Dec 8, 2011

New York, December 8, 2011 -  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released a new publication today on the effects of climate change on Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) and coastal resources. The report titled “Toward Recovery and Sustainability of the World’s Large Marine Ecosystems during Climate Change” finds that warming of ocean surface water limits the movement of nutrients and can result in decreased fish production.

Long term projections in the report indicate that fish production will likely be reduced as the surface of the ocean warms, which limits the upward movement of nutrients from cold subsurface waters (known as upwelling). This will affect the LMEs of developing countries in warmer latitudes of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where dependence on coastal resources for food security and livelihoods is high.

The report notes that from 1982 to 2006, sea surface temperatures in 61 of the world’s 64 LMEs increased. The temperature in nearly a third of the LME covered areas is increasing two to four times faster than the global warming trends reported by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Although fisheries catch rates are currently increasing in warm water LMEs, the average size of fish is declining. The smaller spawning stock sizes could result in the collapse of other fish stocks. Ecosystem-based measures are urgently needed to establish sustainable catch levels for fisheries in warmer latitudes.

The report proposes precautionary steps that should be undertaken immediately to sustain marine fisheries, restore and protect coastal habitats including important carbon sinks, and reduce the load of pollution.

“Climate change is a critical global issue. Without action, climate change could negate decades of development progress and undermine efforts for advancing sustainable development,” said Dr. Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group.

The publication was released during the COP17 climate negotiations in Durban. Other contributors to the report include the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Global Environment Facility.

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