Climate change leading to shrinking fish stocks, UN says

22 February 2008 – The supply of fish stocks will plummet as the world heats up, impacting millions of people in developing nations who depend on fishing for their livelihoods, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Rising greenhouse gas emissions threaten at least three quarters of key fishing grounds, and this could affect the 2.6 billion people who derive their protein from seafood worldwide, the study noted.

The ocean’s natural pumping systems, which bring nutrients to fisheries and also help flush out wastes and pollution, are under threat.

Additionally, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will raise the acid level in seas and oceans, which will hurt corals as well as planktonic organisms at the base of the food chain.

“Climate change threatens coastal infrastructure, food and water supplies and the health of people across the world,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “This is as much a development and economic issue as it is an environmental one.”

The new report was compiled from the agency’s various research hubs, including the GRID Arendal Centre, World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Division of Early Warning and Assessment.

It noted that the worst effects of a combination of climate change, over-harvesting, bottom trawling, invasive species infestations, coastal development and pollution are concentrated in 10 to 15 per cent of oceans, far higher than previously thought.

The study, In Dead Water, was launched at UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which ended today in Monaco.

Focusing on the theme “Mobilizing Finance for the Climate Challenge,” it is the largest gathering of environment ministers since last December’s landmark UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, which ended with 187 countries agreeing to launch a two-year process of formal negotiations on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol.

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