Emergencies in marine fisheries and aquaculture are triggered by a variety of events, including climatic and environmental emergencies, and disease outbreaks. The most important measures that can be taken to minimize the impact of emergencies are of a precautionary nature. By anticipating threats, making contingency plans and by taking appropriate precautions, much damage, which might otherwise occur in an emergency, can be avoided.
The frequency and intensity of storms have been increasing during the past decade. Fortunately, marine organisms and their habitats tend not to be seriously affected directly by storms. However, fishers face the risk of losing their lives in storms and suffering the destruction of their capital, such as boats and fishing gear.
An important possible measure might be installing or improving storm-warning systems, involving shore-to-boat and boat-to-boat communications networks. Other measures that might help mitigate the impact of storms are the training of fishers in safety precautions.
Environmental emergencies may occur as a result of oil spills, releases of hazardous chemicals, or the introduction of harmful organisms (e.g. toxic algae blooms). These can threaten the survival, health and reproduction of fish stocks, whether wild or farmed. Disease outbreaks at epidemic levels in the aquaculture sector often constitute an emergency. Contingency planning to deal with such outbreaks should aim to reduce the consequent spread of disease as early action can significantly lessen the social and economic impacts that otherwise can result.
Fisheries insurance schemes offer another means of dealing with unavoidable damage caused in emergencies. Although there is growing use of such schemes, there is still significant scope for promoting them further, particularly in developing countries.