From Rio+ 20: A report from the United Nations Development Programme shows that climate change is threatening the livelihoods of billions of people, who are dependent on the $12 trillion generated annually from the large marine ecosystems.

A new publication entitled, Frontline Observations on Climate Change and the Sustainability of Large Marine Ecosystems, called on urgent investment in a green economy to counter the impact.

The report finds that “warming ocean waters are causing major shifts in fish distribution and severe degradation of coastal habitats.” Details include:

  • In West Africa, large populations of sardines are moving away from traditional fishing grounds. This represents a major loss in protein supplies for the region.
  • In northwest Africa, stocks of sardines and mackerel in the Canary Current LME are moving from traditional fishing areas in Senegal northward towards cooler waters off the coast of Mauritania.
  • In southwest Africa, sardines and mackerel populations are moving southward from Namibia, towards the cooler waters of the Benguela Current LME and onto the Agulhas banks area of South Africa.
  • In Asia, the increased intensity of monsoon rains in the Bay of Bengal LME is lowering the salinity of surface waters. Lower salinity is inhibiting nutrient replenishment of surface waters, thereby lowering natural productivity, and fish populations. As a result, food security for millions of people in coastal communities is at risk.

Other risks from climate change, outlined in the volume, include effects of sea level rise, coastal erosion, and the negative effects of carbon dioxide emissions on the acidification of LME waters around the world.

To combat the deleterious effects of climate change, the Global Environment Facility, its agencies and the World Bank have mobilised “over US$4 billion to recover and sustain the goods and services of LMEs in over 100 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America,” the GEF said. In particular:

  • In the Yellow Sea LME, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea have committed to reduce fishing effort by 33 percent, buy back retired vessels, retrain fisherman for alternative livelihoods, and reduce nutrient discharges to the Yellow Sea by 10 percent every five years.
  • In the Humboldt Current LME, Chile and Peru are protecting 18-20 percent of the world’s annual marine fish catch through ecosystem based management and specific catch levels for fish species such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.