Investing in Climate-smart Fisheries and Aquaculture

Dr. Ranjan Roy

13 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Investing in Climate-smart Fisheries and Aquaculture

Dr. Ranjan Roy

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has emerged as an optimal solution for producing food and securing food security in the context of changing climate. CSA is defined as an “approach to develop actions to transform and reorient food production systems to effectively support sustainable development and ensure food security under climate change.” Similar to the CSA approach, climate-smart fisheries and aquaculture has been an effective means and measure of increasing the sector’s productivity where possible, while both adapting to and mitigating climate change.

Fisheries and aquaculture entail three subsectors: inland capture fishery, aquaculture and marine capture fishery. These subsectors are vulnerable to climate change and climate variability (i.e., natural climate fluctuations), which are occurring through a significant rise in the global mean temperature over the past hundred years. This temperature rise has direct connections to the changes in the precipitation patterns and intense extreme weather events, e.g., flooding, cyclone and storm surge. These events have a plethora of impacts, both direct and indirect, on fisheries and aquaculture.

Biophysical changes from global warming like sea-level rise, river flows, rainfall, ocean currents, thermal structure, acidification and others have substantial effects on production ecology and biodiversity that impacts on fisheries and aquaculture such as species composition, increased diseases, reduced production, increased yield variability, calcification, coral bleaching. Biophysical changes also affect the fishing, aquaculture and associated post-harvest operations; communities and livelihoods; and wider society and economy. Consequently, related impacts include safety and security, efficiency and costs, infrastructure, loss and damage to assets, migration and displacement, and market and trade.

A host of organisations including FAO, WorldFish, World Bank and ADB categorically shows that to minimise the impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture, the governments must invest in climate-smart fisheries and aquaculture (CSFA). Primarily, CSFA addresses three challenges, namely increasing productivity, adaptation to climate change and mitigation to climate change (that is, reducing, removing and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions).

CSFA is linked to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For instance, End poverty in all its forms everywhere (SDG 1), End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, promote sustainable agriculture (SDG 2), Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (SDG 13) and Conserve and sustainably use the aquatic resources for sustainable development (SDG 14).

CSFA is inexplicably linked to other initiatives and approaches whose fundamental aim is to promote sustainable food and agriculture. Sustainable intensification envisaged to raise productivity, lower production costs and increase the level and stability of returns from production while reduce the negative environmental impacts of production. Sustainable intensification is complementary to CSFA. Likewise, CSFA is closely connected to agroecology, green economy, ecosystem approach and blue growth.

Climate-smart strategies in fisheries and aquaculture include the dissemination of locally suitable practices (e.g., farming of more resistant fish species to cope with changing environmental conditions) and context-specific technologies (for example, promoting integrated crop-fisheries systems) as well as the creation of a supportive enabling environment for change through sound policies (e.g., ensuring water tenure and strengthening social protection safety nets), robust institutions and secure financing, for instance mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture/fisheries into national agricultural investments.

Sustainable increase of productivity is the first climate-smart thematic area. To attain this area, efforts should be made to reduce or avoid losses and waste, enhance efficiency in product distribution and increase profitability in food processing of aquatic resources. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries highlights the necessity of ensuring sustainable exploitation of aquatic living resources in harmony with the environment. FAO also advocates to promote the maintenance of the quality, diversity and availability of fishery resources, and prevent or eliminate excess fishing.

The second climate-smart thematic area is adapting and building resilience to climate change. Practical options for addressing reduced yield are to broaden target species, reduce costs, increase efficiency, reduce loss and waste, and diversify livelihoods and access higher-value markets. Implementing insurance schemes, promoting adaptive management frameworks are also significant for increased yield variability.

Improving farm siting and design, better water management, adjusting harvest and market schedules, improving seed quality, introducing marine or euryhaline species (wide salinity tolerance) and adapting production and handling techniques are important options for aquaculture to reduce vulnerability and build the resilience of ecosystems that sustain the sector and communities which depend on it.

As the third climate-smart thematic area, climate change mitigation has to pay attention to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, despite fisheries and aquaculture having a relatively small carbon footprint compared with other land-based food production systems. Main attention might be on fishmeal production for aquaculture, mangrove deforestation, fuel burning and electricity use and fish processing. Key mitigation measures include protecting coastal areas (such as mangroves), preventing excess fishing by reducing catch, reducing use of fishmeal, improving the energy efficiency of fishing vessels and others.

These three thematic areas can be addressed at four different scales and levels. First, ‘national and regional-level’ approaches include strengthening the capacity for developing strategic national and regional initiatives that combine mitigation and adaptation activities in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. Other approaches are conducting analyses and developing institutional and human capital and mainstreaming climate change adaptation strategies related to this sector. To contribute to national food security, nutrition and economy, country’s focus not only on higher-value species and larger fish, but also on all fish species of all sizes.

Second, key strategic approaches for ‘industry’ would be mapping strategic investments for infrastructure in order to protect and improve production capacities and the supply chain. Assessing and implementing a combination of ‘hard’ (power supply, roads, market, processing facilities and services) and ‘soft’ (increasing awareness, implementing policies, providing training, and developing early warning systems) strategies are required. Moreover, investments are needed on hydrological planning, protecting coastal zones, generating renewable energy, promoting best practices and formulating resilient supply strategies.

Third, adjusting responses at the ‘local and enterprise’ levels include defining the local, economic and political contexts, that are livelihood options, diverse capital, institutions and capacity building. Identifying risk reduction measures are crucial through upgrading physical structures like flood protection, managing environments and diversifying and segmenting supply chains.

And fourth, at the ‘individuals and communities’ critical responses are determining stakeholder by identifying their roles, dependencies, risks and options to current and imminent development initiatives. Developing a local learning process, employing ICTs and participatory decision-making are useful responses.

At present, identification, validation and implementation of CSA approaches for fisheries and aquaculture are in the early stages of development and dissemination. Prima facie evidences indicate critical factors of the transition to CSFA are capacity-building, multisectoral incentives, public and private investment, and long-term planning.

The fisheries and aquaculture sector has revolutionised Bangladesh – a country that is highly vulnerable to climate change (that is flooding, cyclones and sea level rise). In the face of changing climate, the future of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture will largely hinge on the government’s investments in strategic climate-smart approaches for inland capture fishery, aquaculture and marine capture fishery.


The writer is a Professor, Department of Agricultural Extension and Information System, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural

University, Dhaka.