European fishing communities face climate risks including the UK

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European fishing communities face their own specific climate risks, say researchers.

Of all European fisheries and coastal communities, the ones in the UK and the Eastern Mediterranean have the highest risk of being affected by climate change. To reduce climate risks, they are advising regional policy makers to focus on sustainable and diverse fisheries management.

Throughout Europe, millions of people depend on fishing for their food and livelihood and as an important aspect of their cultural heritage. In the near future, ocean warming will influence the local distribution and abundance of fish and shellfish species and have major consequences on local businesses.

Results on the regional level

In a very broad but nevertheless detailed new study, marine ecologists from research institutes in Denmark, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have investigated the climate risk of regional fishing communities. The scientists have zoomed in on the fish population level rather than only looking at the species level. This resulted in a fleet and region based analysis.

“One of our most important findings,” said co-author Myron Peck from the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, “is that even in relatively wealthier countries like the UK, there are big regional differences with some, though not all local fishing communities, at high risk.” Overall, the United Kingdom and countries like Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia face the highest climate risk. Peck said: “Communities may be fishing on only one species, of which the numbers can drop due to climate change, or fisheries have invested in only one type of gear that cannot be used on different fish species.”

Solutions need to be tailored

Different risk profiles for geographic regions in Europe stress the need for very local adaptation approaches. John Pinnegar, climate scientist at Cefas, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, UK, says: “Climate risks vary both across and within countries. Our research suggests that while some coastal communities and fishing fleets will find it relatively easy to adapt others may find it far more difficult.”

In their study, the scientists suggest that countries such as Denmark, Finland and Belgium should focus on higher fleet resilience, while the Baltic States should enhance social safety nets through, for example, income support or alternative livelihoods. The UK and South-eastern European countries will have to adapt in both fields.

Pinnegar said: “Fleets and regions can be at risk for very different reasons, meaning that solutions will need to be tailored to account for local factors and impacts, rather than trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach in all situations. For instance, in some areas financial support may help, in order to purchase new fishing gears and therefore target non-traditional, incoming fish or invertebrate species such as squid. Elsewhere, interventions that improve fleet profitability or socio-economic resilience might be more effective.”

Implement conclusions into policies

The scientists constructed the climate risk analysis by considering the climate hazard, exposure, and vulnerability of the fishing fleets and coastal regions. “Together, these factors enable us to draw conclusions that can be implemented into policies,” said Peck. “In fact, our results will be taken up in the next IPCC climate advice early next year.”

The researchers are advising policy makers to focus on sustainable management of the living marine resources on the one hand, and on diversification of fishing fleets on the other. Strengthening of both factors would significantly lower climate risks for local fishing communities. Pinnegar said: “This research can be used by fishers and fisheries managers to look ahead and plan future adaptation actions.”

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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.


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