The Effects of Shifting Distributions on Management of Transboundary Fish Stocks
We are entering an era of potential ‘fish wars’ where there will be definite winners and losers. Innovative rights and tenure based practices can help get management right in the face of climate change. If we succeed, the world’s fisheries can do better than today. However, if we fail to get it right, the losers will be people who least can afford it. They depend on fisheries for food and income, and they don’t have many alternatives. If the fish go, they are in trouble.
Needed is a human-centric focus for fisheries management, not just an eco-centric one, applied globally. People matter, borders that fish ignore matter less. Increasing nationalism in many parts of the world may hinder necessary fisheries managements responses in a changing climate.
Some 800 million people globally suffer from a lack of food and another 2 billion people have nutritional deficiencies. By 2050, global food production will need to increase by between 70 and 100 percent to feed the growing population.
Small-scale fisheries, especially in developing nations, provides a critical role in food security, nutritional well-being, equitable and sustainable resource development, and economic viability, affecting more than 1 billion people.
The “winners” in climate change will likely be the higher latitudes – such as Northern Europe and New Zealand, where waters remain cold and nutrient-rich and economies are rich and diverse. On the flip side are tropical regions, such as Pacific island nations, where tuna stocks may shift away from traditional areas because of climate change. Many of these small island countries have few economic options to replace them, and robust cooperative management approaches will be even more important in the future as fisheries move with no regard for national boundaries. There are no fences in the ocean.
Concerted international action to strengthen coalitions of countries for the management of shared fisheries and to help fisheries in the most impacted to regions to adapt to climate change is needed before it is too late. Otherwise we could see a resumption of fish wars, a return to overfished and collapsed fish stocks, decimated marine ecosystems, and the squandering of a critical food and economic resource.