The latest issue of the Climate and Development journal features an article by Barbadian Dr. Leonard Nurse on the need for Caribbean fisheries to adapt to climate change:
Global climate models suggest that average temperatures in the Caribbean will rise by 0.5–1.0°C by 2039, 0.8–2.5°C from 2040 to 2069, and 0.94–4.8°C between 2070 and 2099, Nurse writes, and similar trends in sea surface temperatures are expected.
Warming waters are a primary cause of coral bleaching, Nurse notes. Many Caribbean islands have reported ‘significant’ bleaching, and the problem is expected to become more severe, with negative impacts on the diversity and size of fish communities. Plankton mass has also declined in many areas, leaving fish without the food they need, and warming waters and changing ocean circulation patterns may also alter the length and timing of spawning seasons, and could lead to higher fish mortality.
In addition, there is evidence that climate-related changes in ocean chemistry, including acidification, threaten fish. The world’s oceans have become roughly 30 per cent more acidic since 1750, Nurse notes, and this makes it harder for organisms to form shells; with global CO2 increasing, this is a grave threat to reef habitats and associated fauna.
Lastly, the severity of tropical storms is increasing, with eight Category 5 hurricanes in 2001–2010, compared with a total of 23 between 1928 and 2000. Storms are also reaching high intensity more quickly, suggesting that fishers will have less time to secure their boats and gear. More severe storms could also accelerate coastal erosion and loss and put critical infrastructure such as wharves at risk.
‘Thus, apart from having to adapt to altered conditions such as changes in fish stock distribution and abundance, stakeholders will also be confronted by the possibility of increased storminess at sea and on land, and higher risk to the safety of fishers as well as vessels,’ Nurse writes.
Since stopping climate change is beyond Caribbean fisheries’ power, and negative effects are already being felt, ‘adaptation is the only option’, Nurse writes. Actions must be taken to improve the resilience of habitats and key species, e.g., strict enforcement of marine control protocols; reduced contamination from land-based sources; reviving and expanding habitat protection programmes; and control of overharvesting and damaging methods of harvest.
Read more in this report from the Stockholm Environment Institute.
[Photo: Laszlo Ilyes]