Climate Change

Mainstreaming fisheries and aquaculture in climate change adaptation - New FAO supplementary guidelines for adaptation planning


Out of all the food production systems, the fisheries and aquaculture sector, that supports the livelihoods of millions of people, has one of the lowest carbon footprints. 

Climate change is however having a profound impact on the wellbeing of aquatic ecosystems, with implications for food security and the livelihoods of communities dependent on fish and aquaculture.

To help countries integrate fisheries and aquaculture into adaptation planning, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have developed the Addressing Fisheries and Aquaculture in National Adaptation Plans - Supplement to the UNFCCC NAP Technical Guidelines (“NAP-Fish guidelines”). These new guidelines highlight the nexus between sustainable aquatic food production and climate adaptation.

The NAP-Fish guidelines are intended for national policymakers within ministries and institutions addressing the governance and management of the fisheries and aquaculture sector. They can provide support by linking the work of these decision-makers’ to climate change, enabling them to lead the recognition, promotion and inclusion of the sector in national adaptation planning. Other stakeholders can also make use of these guidelines and understand how to engage in and initiate climate change adaptation at subnational and local levels.

Marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems play an increasingly important role in global food systems and thr socio-economic landscape. They are also recognised as a nature-based solution to global climate change because of their role in carbon sequestration and in sustaining key ecosystem services. For example, they sustain both food and oxygen production, provide coastal protection, and offer nursery grounds for aquatic species. 

In this context, Manuel Barange, Director of FAO’s Fisheries Division notes that “together, we can work to reduce the vulnerabilities of those most dependent on fisheries and aquaculture in order to sustain their livelihoods, food and nutrition security, and overall wellbeing. Together, we can adapt to a changing climate whilst unlocking the Blue Growth potential of our aquatic systems.“ 

Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO’s Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment, complements this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of the human-centered mainstreaming of fisheries and aquaculture in adaptation planning: 

”The centrality of climate change adaptation in ensuring fisheries sustainability, as well as a means to safeguard the most vulnerable communities without alternative livelihood resilience cannot be over-emphasised.” 

This new publication accompanies the Addressing agriculture, forestry and fisheries in National Adaptation Plans - Supplementary guidelines, which was issued by FAO in 2017 as a response to a call by the Least Developed Group (LEG) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) inviting international actors to draft sectorial guidelines to complement the UNFCCC NAP Technical Guidelines.

Shortly before the launch of the NAP-Fish guidelines, FAO also launched the Addressing forestry and agroforestry in National Adaptation Plans - Supplementary guidelines. Both publications build upon lessons learned in countries through the Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) programme, co-led by FAO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), funded by the German Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety through IKI.

The project addressed climate change adaptation in agriculture within national planning and budgeting between 2015-2020 in 11 countries. The guidelines are useful in providing a structured process for agriculture sectors to present their adaptation potential and to engage with other sectors to discuss synergies and trade-offs among actions affecting the interlinked socio-ecological systems.