Caribbean project to study impacts of climate change on fisheries

Fisheries managers in the Caribbean are pinning their hopes on the Climate Investment Fund's Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), Caribbean Regional Track, to generate the data the lack of which has posed major obstacles to effective planning and management of fisheries in a region hit hard by climate change.

The Caribbean Regional Track of the PPCR is receiving approximately USD 10 million (EUR 8.5 million) over a five-year period to benefit planning in key areas where climate change will have a significant impact, including coastal and marine resources and fisheries. 

“The main objectives of the program are specifically, to help to improve regional processes of climate relevant data acquisition, storage, analysis, access, transfer and dissemination, and to pilot and scale up innovative climate resilient initiatives,” according to a document provided by the managing agency for the Caribbean PPCR, the University of the West Indies, Mona. “The program utilizes a regional approach that seeks to generate data and develop information products and services that can be utilized at both the regional and national levels. It also seeks to enhance the utilization of climate data and information for decision making purposes.”

The Caribbean has a real need for such data, Deputy Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Susan Singh-Renton said.

“At present, the greatest weakness in determining best fisheries management options in the context of climate change is our scientific information base,” she told SeafoodSource. “This particular study affords a unique opportunity for us to gather data and information to appreciate, in measurable terms, how our fisheries operations and associated marine systems are being influenced by conditions brought on by climate change.”

Just over USD 3 million (EUR 2.6 million) has been allocated by the fund through the Inter-American Development Bank to “applied adaptation initiatives” of the regional PPCR. These initiatives include “Reduc[ing] climate variability and change related risks on the fisheries industry.” To achieve this objective, the document states, the following will be implemented: “(a) six Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) early-warning systems to reduce climate variability and change related risks on fisheries; (b) one fishery assessment and a regiona fisheries and environmental database; and (c) a regional fishery-related ecological and socio-economic impacts assessment.”

The CRFM is co-implementing the marine sub-component of the regional project. Other components of the regional PPRC deal with agriculture, tourism, health, and water.

In fulfilling its responsibilities under the PPCR project, which covers Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Dominica, and Grenada, the CRFM is in the process of recruiting a team of consultants to manage a fishery-related ecological and socio-economic impact assessments and monitoring system “to improve the information base and its usage for climate-smart fisheries planning and management decision-making, as well as, risk management in the fisheries sector,” according to the CRFM website. The consultancy is expected to extend over a two-year period.

The consultants are required to have 10 years’ experience in the fisheries sector, including with regard to risk management, and at least five years of “proven experience assessing the ecological and socio-economic impacts of climate change and climate variability on the fisheries resources and fisheries sector, with specific experience in the conduct of fisheries and marine ecosystem analyses and assessments to quantify past, and predicted, climate change and climate variability impacts on fisheries production, post-harvest and marketing systems and associated livelihoods,” according to the CRFM request for proposals.

At present, Singh-Renton said, “Very basic data are collected typically, usually on fish catches and sometimes fishing trips; and fisheries management plans and actions make use of these basic data to inform decisions. However, as we face the challenges of climate change, we need to understand how climate change conditions influence fish catches and fishing trips.”

For example, there is a need for more data on ecological impacts of climate change such as “losses in reef fish diversity as a result of reduced coral reef health associated with sea temperature rise, and increased land runoff from increased rainfall intensity; reduced local availability of large migratory fishes such as the tunas, mackerels, and mahi because of more frequent and unpredictable shifts in sea surface temperature profiles that affect the movement and distribution of these large fishes within the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea; unpredictable changes in fish and coral biology as a result of rising sea temperatures,” Singh-Renton  said.

Caribbean fisheries managers also need more data on socio-economic impacts such as “reduced fishing days and, hence, production as a result of more frequent stormy weather and associated rougher sea conditions; reduced level of revenue for industry as a result of loss in fishing days and reduction in fishery resource availability…reduced opportunities for employment within the industry; reduced access to ready supply of cheap and valuable fresh fish protein, with possible severe impacts on food and nutrition security, especially for the rural poor.”

The fisheries track of the regional PPCR “helps to meet that need by researching the link between climate-induced changes in the natural marine resources and environment, and fishery performance,” Singh-Renton added.


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