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Over 90% of global aquaculture faces substantial risk from environmental change

How can aquaculture be made more resilient to climate change? Let’s look for ways together.

Over 90% of global aquaculture faces substantial risk from environmental change

The study by University of California Santa Barbara shows that more than 90% of global “blue” food production, in both captures fisheries and aquaculture, faces substantial risks from environmental change.

Many of the world’s largest aquatic food producers are highly vulnerable to human-induced environmental change, with some of the highest-risk countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa demonstrating the lowest capacity for adaptation.

Insufficient adaptation of the world's aquaculture industry to rapidly evolving climate change is resulting in enormous losses.

For example, according to a new study published in Climate Risk Management, Bangladesh’s aquaculture suffered US$140 million in losses between 2011 and 2020, a figure that highlights the vulnerability of this key economic sector in Bangladesh to climate change.

It is worth noting that the study’s findings are not just numbers; they represent the livelihoods of thousands dependent on aquaculture in Bangladesh and underscore the urgent need for struggle the challenge.

This is the case across the globe, especially among high producing countries in Asia, which are the world's largest producer of aquatic food from both aquaculture and fisheries, employing 85 percent of the world's fishermen and aquaculture workers.

How can aquaculture be made more resilient to climate change? 

Currently, there are now many tools available to improve the resilience of aquaculture to climate change, creating so-called climate-smart aquaculture. For example, the World Fish Center (WFC), which works across 20 countries in Asia, Africa and the Pacific to address sustainable development challenges,   highlighted the value of tools such as Climate Information Services (CIS).

CIS are services that provide targeted and timely information about climate patterns and trends in advance, helping aquatic food systems, policy makers and fisher and fish farmer communities make informed decisions to adapt to climate change.

To reach its finding, the study used an innovative data analysis method, merging online newspaper data with government and satellite datasets to provide a comprehensive view of the climate-related losses faced by the aquaculture industry.

According to the WFC, if CIS can offset even 10% of climate-induced damage to aquaculture, its value could be up to US$14 million a year to the industry.

Recycling aquaculture systems (RAS), rapidly gaining popularity around the world due to a number of significant advantages over traditional aquaculture is another land-based controlled fish farming method and one of the potential adaptation strategies to mitigate impact of climate change.

RAS are eco-friendly, water efficient, highly productive intensive farming system, which are not associated with adverse environmental impacts, such as habitat destruction, water pollution, biotic depletion, disease outbreaks, and parasite transmission. Moreover, RAS operate in indoor controlled environment, and thus, only minimally affected by climatic factors.

However, energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the two most stringent limiting factors for RAS. 

 Environmental stressors do not respect national borders.

In general, aquaculture can be made more resilient to climate change through various strategies. These include implementing coping mechanisms at the local level, such as water quality management techniques. Multilevel adaptive strategies, such as changing cultural practices, can also enhance resilience. Additionally, adopting management approaches like adaptation planning and community-based adaptation can contribute to the sector's resilience. It is not too hard to continue the list.

However, it can be completely useless if one circumstance is not taken into account: environmental stressors do not respect national borders.

Thus, among the key recommendations is a call for closer cross-border collaboration. Adaptation strategies can only be useful if the aquaculture community recognizes that the ecosystems that blue food production relies upon are highly interconnected, with environmental change in one area having potential knock-on effects elsewhere. This, in turn, requires new seafood platforms for discussion. 

SEAFOOD EXPO EURASIA is a new international seafood event that will bring together aquaculture communities from around the world in search of ways to make fish farming resilient to climate change, using vast natural resources of some and the sophisticated technologies of others.

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