Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Africa's Fishing Future Bleak

Socialist Banner has reported about the problems of Africa's fishing communities here and yet another report has come to our notice .

Climate change is emerging as the latest threat to the world's fast declining fish stocks, which could affect millions of people who depend on the oceans for food and income. The report, In Dead Water, says climate change may slow down the global flow of ocean currents, which flush and clean the continental shelves and are critical to maintaining water quality, nutrient cycling and the life-cycle patterns of fish and other marine life in more than 75 percent of the world's fishing grounds. Fifty million people could be at risk by 2080 because of climate change and increasing coastal population densities, according to a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) policy brief on the impact of climate change on fisheries .

Christian Nellemann, editor-in-chief of the UNEP report, pointed out that the "impoverished will take the greatest toll both in terms of reduced food supply, but also breakdown in their economy and their primary opportunity to move out of poverty. This is an emerging catastrophe of an unprecedented scale, and the efforts in the next two decades will determine the lives of hundreds of millions for centuries ahead."

He said West Africa, where several million people live along the coast and the fisheries provide the primary income and food resource, could be among the worst affected by climate change and industrial overfishing - including bottom trawling - combined with coastal pollution. "Here, an increasingly larger portion, often exceeding 80 percent to 90 percent of the fishery harvest, is caught by non-local vessels, such as from the European Union."

The report also found that up to 80 percent of the world's primary fish-catch species are exploited beyond or close to their harvesting capacity: advances in technology, combined with subsidies, mean the world's fishing capacity is 2.5 times bigger than can harvest fisheries sustainably.

African countries were most vulnerable to the likely impacts of climate change on fisheries. Climate change will change the distribution, conservation and use of the water of the earth and its atmosphere. African fisheries are particularly at risk because semi-arid countries with significant coastal or inland fisheries have high exposure to future increases in temperature, and the linked changes in rainfall and coastal current systems.
The high catches that currently allow exports may become a thing of the past, and a high dependence on fish for protein could threaten the health of many thousands as catches shrink. Low capacity to adapt to change due to their comparatively small or weak economies and low human development indices could set back development in countries like Angola, Congo, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
In African countries like Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and Uganda, the fisheries sector contributes over six percent of gross domestic product. Rift Valley countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, river-dependent fishery nations, are also vulnerable.

Researchers found that lake fisheries have already begun to feel the impact of climatic variability, affecting fish production. .
In Lake Chilwa, Malawi, a 'closed-basin' lake, dry periods have become more frequent and fish yields are declining.
In Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, fish yields have dropped because of declining wind speeds and rising water temperatures, which have reduced the mixing of nutrient-rich deep waters with the surface waters that support fish production. This, along with overfishing, may be responsible for the declining fish yields from the lake. .
Lake Chad's area fluctuates extensively, but follows a declining trend. In 2005 it occupied only 10 percent of the area it was in 1963, with further decreases predicted in the coming century. Fish catches have not fallen to the same extent, but the overall productive potential of the lake is declining.

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