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Tropical countries dependent on fisheries need help to adapt to problems created by climate change.

Poorest fisheries face greatest warming threat: study

February 19, 2009

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Correction Appended

Millions of struggling people in tropical fishery-dependent nations will be hard hit by global warming, according to a new report co-authored by SFU researcher Nick Dulvy and published this month in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

Dulvy, a Canada Research Chair in marine biodiversity and conservation, and Eddie Allison at the Malaysia-based WorldFish Center led an international team of biologists and geographers on the project. SFU biologist John Reynolds, the Tom Buell B.C. leadership chair in salmon conservation, also participated.

In what is the first study to rank countries by the vulnerability of their fisheries to climate change, the authors compared 132 countries based on their dependence on fish for protein and income, and their social and economic ability to adapt.

They identified 33 countries whose fisheries were the most "highly vulnerable" to global warming effects such as rising ocean temperatures, severe flooding, coral bleaching, increased coastal storms and pronounced changes in river flows.

These countries—which include Malawi, Guinea, Senegal and Uganda in Africa, Yemen, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan in Asia, and Peru and Columbia in South America—produce 20 per cent of the world’s fish exports. And Dulvy says they should be given precedence in efforts to help them adjust to climate change.

"Most climate change is occurring in countries near the poles but, surprisingly, this study shows that the tropical countries need the most attention," says Dulvy.

"They are not necessarily the places that will suffer the greatest climate impacts on their fisheries. Rather, they are countries where fish play a large role in diet, income and trade yet there is a lack of capacity to adapt to problems caused by climate change."

Dulvy says the study is a useful starting point. "But more work is needed to predict with greater precision the impact of climate change on fish-dependent populations so that national governments and international agencies can help the most vulnerable societies to anticipate and cope with climate change."

Correction: Feb. 19, 2009
The original, print version of this story mistakenly reffered to Yemen as a country in Africa, rather than Asia.

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