On 26 November, the North Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC) hosted a virtual workshop on the impact of Climate Change on North Western Waters fisheries.
Members of the Advisory Council were joined by international scientific experts, representatives from the European Commission and other European fisheries stakeholders to discuss policy frameworks, recent research, and potential mitigation and adaptation strategies in relation to Climate Change for the demersal fisheries in the North Western Waters.
The European Commission highlighted the important role oceans play in the context of the Green Deal and its overall priority of making the European Union climate neutral by 2050 through a transition to a sustainable economy in a fair and inclusive way.
Even if the total contribution by the fisheries sector to carbon emissions of global food production is less than 4%, it is fundamental that the sector takes part in the decarbonisation process, considering the development of new promising technologies using hydrogen, solar and wind energy. Also, because fishing does not require land consumption or care of livestock, seafood has on average a smaller carbon footprint than other animal proteins. At the same time, experts reminded that it is possible for fisheries to lower their carbon footprint and emissions by being more efficient at catching fish and thus spending less time at sea. Solutions include not only improving vessels and gears design, but also rebuilding fish stocks.
Fisheries scientists from the University of Aberdeen, the Marine Institute, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Marine Scotland Science and Ifremer explained the different impacts Climate Change may bring to fisheries in the North Western Waters. These include changes in species distribution and catch composition, which could in turn increase the risk of choke species and lack of quota situations. At the same time, the increase in biomass of warm water species and emerging species may represent new catch potential and an opportunity for fishermen to access new markets.
In order to mitigate risks and utilise opportunities, it is vital that flexible management solutions, that can account for changes, are implemented. It is equally important that appropriate financial support is provided to sustain the adaptive capacity of and facilitate the uptake of low-carbon technologies by the fishing industry.
Results from the presented research showed that Climate Change is still perceived as a low priority issue relative to more pressing risks for the future of the fisheries sector. Experts agreed on the need to promote communication and cooperation between all stakeholders to increase awareness and ensure the development of inclusive and comprehensive management solutions. Advisory Councils have an important role to play in this context. Global processes in relation to climate change, oceans and marine biodiversity were also considered to be important fora where the fisheries stakeholders should engage.
The members of the NWWAC greatly appreciated the discussion and the inputs from the experts. Lessons learned from this workshop will feed the preparation of an advice to the European Commission by the Advisory Council on fisheries management strategies for the North Western Waters which can help overcoming the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities Climate Change brings along.
For further information contact Matilde Vallerani, Deputy Executive Secretary, NWWAC, Tel: +353 1 2144 126, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.