Climate change threatens livelihoods of fish producers

Up to 10 million jobs in the fisheries sector stand to be lost as a result of exacerbated changes in weather in Sub Saharan Africa with a 10,000 reduction in fish production from Kenya and Ethiopia, the most affected countries, putting a strain on food security according to a report by International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

What makes the situation more dire is the fact that majority of those who rely on the fish are poor people with fish providing protein to one out of five people in the region and being one of the most traded commodities. But policy makers have overlooked the sector in their plans to adapt to climate change, mainly because little is known about the role of fisheries in fighting poverty and food insecurity.

Rising temperatures and sea levels, together with increasing salinity and ocean acidification, could reduce fish stocks, destroy habitats and affect fish migration patterns. Smaller catches would result in fewer fish to eat and export, cutting incomes, Mohammed warned.

Experts now say that climate change is likely to displace some fish species across national borders, making it economically unviable and politically difficult for fishermen to follow them, he added.

The paper, co-authored with Zenebe Bashaw Uraguchi from HELVETAS Intercooperation, says fisheries should be pushed to the forefront of strategies to adapt to climate change. It recommends that investments should be made to boost sustainable fish production in the region.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than 380 million people living below the poverty line, who struggle to adapt to external shocks. By 2020, it is estimated that half the world’s poor will be living in the region, according to the IIED.

The paper compares the Global Hunger Index drawn up by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with fish production in sub-Saharan African countries, and finds that the more fisheries there are, the less people go hungry. Despite this, only three out of 48 countries in the region have mentioned fisheries in their national poverty reduction strategy papers, the research finds .

Given the growing threat of climate change to the fishing sector, the authors warn against over-reliance on a single source of protein and income.
With the study showing that a reduction in fish availability could lead to higher hunger rates, experts now call for people to diversify their dietary habits and sources, and livelihoods.