F.A.O.: Climate change will have impact on fisheries

by Josh Sosland
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ROME — Fisheries and agriculture will be strongly affected by climate change, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said July 10.

The F.A.O. issued a note of caution at the start of a four-day scientific symposium on climate change and marine fisheries. The event was held July 8-10 at the group’s Rome headquarters.

The F.A.O. described wild capture fisheries as "fundamentally different" from other food production systems in their linkages and responses to food climate change.

"Unlike most terrestrial animals, aquatic animal species used for human consumption are poikilothermic, meaning their body temperatures adjust according to ambient temperatures," the F.A.O. said. "Any changes in habitat temperatures significantly influence their metabolism, growth rate, productivity, seasonal reproduction and susceptibility to disease and toxins."

Changes in fish distribution in response to climate variations already have been observed, the F.A.O. said. They noted that shifts in ocean salinity are taking place with waters near the surface in areas where more evaporation is taking place are experiencing increasing salinity. At higher latitudes, where ice is melting, salinity is declining.

The importance of fisheries and aquaculture in the food supply was emphasized by the F.A.O., noting that for 2.8 billion individuals worldwide, these products account for at least 20% of animal protein intake, mostly in developing countries.

"Fish is also the world’s most widely traded foodstuff," the F.A.O. said.

At the same time, the F.A.O. said effects on fisheries and aquaculture will vary widely with both negative and positive impacts likely, "depending on the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the affected communities."

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