COP 22 highlights importance of Oceans

Two women bringing home fish

Two women bringing home fish in Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi Province, Indonesia. Photo: Rare

Today, at COP 22 in Marrakesh, the Government of Morocco together with a strong coalition of government and non-governmental actors hosts the Oceans Day. It aims to advance action around mitigation and adaptation in the context of oceans and the 183 coastal and nations of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS). The ocean is a major climate change buffer and the single biggest carbon sink on Earth. The high seas alone sequester an estimated two billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, at a carbon storage value of around USD148 billion. Coastal, often fisheries dependent, communities are the most vulnerable and need blue, nature-based, solutions to adapt to climate change and build long-term resilience. As such, protecting climate by protecting the ocean and its vital functions has been recognized in the Paris Agreement. Under the Action Agenda of this year’s COP, the Ocean Day will highlight existing and foster new commitments to empower communities to increase their capacity and access the resources needed to avoid the adverse consequences of climate change and to adapt to climate change while fostering sustainable development as called for in the Oceans-related Sustainable Development Goals .

The Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB), through its International Climate Initiative (IKI), funds ecosystem-based approaches to climate change that respond to the global importance of Oceans. A number of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) call for the development of climate and disaster-resilient ecosystems and the enhancement of climate and disaster-resilience, also in key sectors such as fisheries.
The IKI-funded project “Scaling up innovative, community-based protection of coastal biodiversity in Indonesia, Philippines, and Pacific” focuses on the protection of coastal habitats, the natural resources they hold, and the people that depend on them. As the implementing organisation and lead partner, Rare promotes the conservation and sustainable use of marine ecosystems upon which coastal fisheries depend and builds the capacity of communities. The partner countries have recognised the important link between marine conservation and sustainable use of near-shore fisheries and will show case at COP 22 opportunities and challenges for climate change mitigation and adaptation in marine and fisheries, for example in Indonesia.

The project, which runs from 2013 to 2017, aims to protect coastal and marine biodiversity at up to 30 sites in the Philippines, Indonesia and Micronesia. This will be achieved through a combination of capacity building and behaviour change, preserving marine protected areas (MPAs) and No Take Zones (NTZ), and managed access fisheries. The combined effects of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and ocean deoxygenation are affecting ocean productivity, ecosystem health, local livelihoods, global economies, food security, and human health. Evidence of climate change altering species composition of tropical marine fisheries is already apparent globally. Simulations suggest that, as a result of range shifts and decrease in abundance of fish stocks, fisheries catch is likely to decline in tropical regions. Projections also suggest that marine taxa in tropical regions are likely to lose critical habitat e.g., coral reefs, leading to declines in fisheries productivity.

Small-scale fisheries contribute significantly to food security, coastal economies and livelihoods but are at risk from climate change. Between 660 and 820 million people depend on fish related activities as a source of income. Small-scale fisheries account for 90% of fisher folk, making affordable fish accessible to poor populations. Projected future changes in temperature and other physical and chemical oceanographic factors are expected to affect the distribution and abundance of marine fish species.

Human communities, especially in developing nations that depend heavily on coastal fisheries resources for food, economic security, and traditional culture, are at particular risk from shifts in ocean primary productivity and species ranges. For example, tropical fisheries yield is expected to decrease in ways that vary among sub-regions and species. The loss of critical habitats, such as coral reefs and mangroves, will exacerbate the impacts on tropical fisheries and hence on vulnerable human communities. Solutions to combat these changes are therefore highly needed.