Climate change, energy and food
High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy Rome, 3-5 June 2008


Climate Change and Fisheries and Aquaculture

Date: 7-9 April 2008


The importance of fisheries and aquaculture is frequently ignored in the economies of the world, whether they be developed or developing. The following facts provide a more realistic view of the macroeconomic and microeconomic importance of fisheries and aquaculture:

  • Fishery products are the most heavily traded food commodities in the world, their net value being greater than the combined net exports of rice, coffee, sugar, and tea;
  • Developing countries have shifted from being net importers to net exporters of fishery products;
  • The contribution made by the fisheries sector to GDP typically ranges from around 0.5–2.5 percent, but may be as much as 7 percent in some countries;
  • The sector employs some 150 million people in developing countries, 38 million full-time fishers and fish-farmers around the world, and hundreds of millions of others as part-time fishers or working in associated activities;
  • Growth in the sector’s employment has largely outpaced that of agriculture and has been mainly in small-scale fisheries in the developing world; and
  • Fish provides more than 20% of the animal protein consumed for 2.6 billion people in developing countries and at least 50% of the essential animal protein and mineral intake for 400 million people from the poorest African and south Asian countries.

However, the world’s dependence on fisheries is threatened not only by misuse of these fishery resources but also by factors external to the sector, such as land-based pollution, coastal zone development and land-use transformation, other aquatic resource uses, and climate change. Increasingly the threat of climate change is being recognised and the majority of coastal inhabitants and fishing and fish-farming communities (whether riparian, lacustrine, or marine) are particularly vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of predicted climate change. The impacts of climate change are and will be experienced through the consequences of changes in climate on rainfall and runoff, changes in ocean circulation patterns and other aspects of the physical environment, impacts on the nature, distribution and productivity of ecosystems and individual fish populations and stocks, rising sea levels and increased frequency of natural disasters including hurricanes, tropical storms and droughts. 

The FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, in its desire to provide the High-Level Conference with a coherent and high quality understanding of the fisheries and aquaculture climate change issues, will hold an expert meeting in April 2008. This meeting will provide the necessary inputs into the Conference as well as contributing to meeting the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) request that “FAO should undertake a scoping study to identify the key issues on climate change and fisheries, initiate a discussion on how the fishing industry can adapt to climate change, and for FAO to take a lead in informing fishers and policy makers about the likely consequences of climate change for fisheries."


The following issue clusters have been identified to represent the main areas of interest and concern on climate change and fisheries and aquaculture:

Setting the context

  1. Introduction – where do fisheries and aquaculture fit into national, regional and global economies:
    1. the significance of fisheries and aquaculture in the livelihoods of people in both developed and developing countries, for food security, as a safety net for people with limited livelihood alternatives, as well as in trade and in global human consumption; and
    2. the exposure and vulnerability of the sectors to climate change
  2. Best available knowledge, and uncertainties, on future impacts of climate change on marine and inland water ecosystems and on communities dependent on them, including the frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events and threats.

Contributions and Mitigation

  1. Fisheries and aquaculture contributions to greenhouse gasses and the potential for mitigation, throughout the production chain, within these sectors.

Impacts and Adaptation

  1. Arising from point 2, the short- and long-term social and economic impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture, the pathways, hot spots and vulnerable groups

a.      From the perspective of inland and marine capture fisheries; and

b.     from the perspective of aquaculture.

  1. Coping and adaptive capacities in fisheries and aquaculture (encompassing   all scales from communities to industries to institutions): the current state of knowledge and how best to apply the knowledge in addressing present and future problems.

The way forward

  1. Constraints to and opportunities for implementing mitigation and adaptation strategies (short-term and long-term, local, national, international)

a.      Current and future mitigation and adaptation policies, plans and laws; institutions and mandates;

b.     roles and responsibilities for e.g. FAO and other IGOs, governments, industry, NGOs, CSOs etc;

c.      capacity building;

d.     monitoring of efforts and dissemination of experiences and knowledge;

e.      financial mechanisms;

f.       performance frameworks and indicators;

g.   Priorities and recommendations building on existing frameworks and institutions, at local, national, and international scales, including priority research and information gaps

  1. Priority actions for FAO and its Members

Expected Outputs

The results and conclusions of the expert meeting will be encapsulated in a report of the meeting and, together with the background papers, will be used to provide input into the High-level Conference on World Food Security and Global Challenges to be held at FAO Headquarters from 3 to 5 June, 2008.