Addressing an African ministerial conference, the head of the United Nations agricultural agency on Thursday stressed the need to mitigate the impacts of climate change and illegal fishing on oceans and coastal communities as fisheries and aquaculture emerge as driving forces behind the transformation of the continent’s economies.
“Healthy and productive oceans are critical for combatting rural poverty, ensuring food security, improving nutrition and achieving zero hunger,” the Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, told the African Ministerial Conference on Ocean Economies and Climate Change, taking place in Mauritius, according to a FAO news release.
“Stakeholders from fishing, shipping, energy generation and tourism, to list a few, require responsive and innovative solutions to turn climate change impacts into opportunities,” he added.
The two-day conference, which kicked off on Thursday in the island nation off Africa’s east coast, aims to help identify these opportunities to enhance the region’s ability to build climate-resilient ocean economies.
According to FAO, fisheries and aquaculture make a significant contribution to food security and livelihoods of millions of people along the world’s seashores and waterways.
Global production was estimated at 153-million tonnes in 2012, supplying around 18.4 kg per capita per year and 16.5% of global animal proteins and essential micronutrients.
While fish production from capture fisheries has stagnated at around 88-million to 90-million tonnes over recent years, the demand for fish and fishery products has continued to rise.
In all, global ocean economic activity is estimated at $3-trilltion to $5-trillion. African nations are increasingly realising the critical need to diversify beyond land-based activities and build their country’s often rich relationships with the sea, said Da Silva.
Coastal communities are already being affected by a combination of ocean warming, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, salt-water intrusions, ocean acidification and subsequent changes to the resources they depend on for food and livelihoods.
The goal of the international community should be not only building a sustainable green economy, but also a blue one.
Yet, attention to climate change impacts on the ocean has lagged behind concerns for impacts on land and atmosphere.