Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Climate-Smart fisheries and aquaculture

Production and Resources


The fisheries and aquaculture sector is likely to experience some of the greatest impacts on productivity and livelihoods as a result of climate change and climate variability and their influence on the distribution of resources (chapter B4 – 3). The impacts of climate change and adaptation options vary by region. Local context-specific, climate-smart agriculture solutions will be required to guide the sector toward a sustainable future. Chapter B4 – 4 explores how the objectives of climate-smart agriculture can be reached in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, and describes the ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture, which establishes a framework to holistically address climate change across marine and coastal systems. Chapter B4 – 5 provides a summary of strategic climate-smart approaches for the sector. Chapter B4 – 6 outlines the progress of the sector in making the shift to climate-smart agriculture, the priority areas of action for the future and areas where further research is needed.

Key messages

  • The 1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO, 1995) and the ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture (FAO, 2003) outline the principles and approaches that are central to ensuring the sustainability of the sector. Their relevance has never been greater given the need for effective management to respond to climate change and climate variability. 
  • There is a growing understanding of the broad implications of climate change and climate variability on aquatic resources. However, information on local impacts and vulnerabilities is lacking, which hampers adaptation planning at the community and national level. Increased research at the national level and improved capacities for decision-making under uncertainty are needed.
  • A range of actions will be required to make fisheries and aquaculture climate-smart: improving efficiency in the use of natural resources to produce fish and other aquatic foods; overcoming constraints to accessing markets and, in particular, establishing new regulations to prevent fish caught through illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing from entering supply chains; maintaining the resilience of aquatic systems and the communities that rely on them to allow the sector to continue contributing to sustainable development; and gaining an understanding of how to reduce the vulnerability of those most likely to be the hardest hit by climate change.
  • Examples of win-win approaches for attaining climate-smart agriculture objectives include: the improved management of unsustainable fisheries through effective management of capture fishery capacity, and the application of fishing measures that address the underlying drivers of overfishing, such as subsidies that develop overcapacity of global fishing fleets; increased productivity through better integration within production systems and within broader landscapes and seascapes; improved feeding by reducing waste and improving Fish In - Fish Out (FIFO) ratios; reduced losses from disease in aquaculture, especially where rising temperatures adversely affect farmed species; the reduction of pre-harvest and post-harvest losses; and the further development of regional trade and the building of resilience along the whole value chain.
  • Activities to manage fisheries and aquaculture operations to achieve the goals of climate-smart agriculture must be undertaken at all levels (individual, business, community, national and regional) and time scales. Representatives of stakeholders from the private, civil and public sectors will need to be involved in the development of context-specific options.
  • Managing fisheries and aquaculture operations so that they achieve the goals of climate-smart agriculture will also require targeted assistance to ensure that the most vulnerable states, production systems, communities and stakeholders have the potential to develop and apply climate-smart approaches.
  • Markets and trade may help buffer the impact of changes in production. This is especially true for the most vulnerable Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and coastal communities along the equator. Rising temperatures, which causes shifts in the distribution of ocean resources, will ultimately affect food security. Consumer prices and supply-demand gaps need to be addressed in light of the potential climate-induced changes in productivity and availability. Finally, the implications of the impact of climate change and climate change policies on the entire supply and value chain need to be better understood.