The Impact Of Rising Ocean Levels On Fisheries And Global Food Supply

by | Jun 27, 2024 | Conservation, Environmental Impact Assessment

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Rising ocean levels are among climate change’s most visible and deadly effects. This phenomenon, principally because of polar ice caps melting and the thermal expansion of seawater as it warms, poses severe challenges to coastal ecosystems, human populations, and global economic security. The fishing industry is among the most severely impacted sectors, critical to millions of people’s livelihoods and the world food supply. This article examines the complex relationship between increasing sea levels, fisheries, and global food security.

The Science of Rising Ocean Levels

Ocean levels are rising alarmingly, with current estimates indicating an average annual increase of roughly 3.3 millimetres. This increase is due to two major factors: the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and the thermal expansion of seawater. As temperatures rise, seawater expands, and ice melts, increasing the volume of the world’s oceans. This process is exacerbated by rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which store more heat and hasten global warming.

The Impact Of Rising Ocean Levels On Fisheries And Global Food Supply

As per studies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that global sea levels have risen by approximately 8-9 inches (21-24 cm) since 1880 and could rise by 1-4 feet (0.3-1.2 meters) by 2100, depending on future greenhouse gas emissions.

Rising Ocean Levels Impact on Marine Ecosystems and Fisheries

Rising ocean levels significantly impact marine ecosystems, disturbing the delicate balance between marine life and habitats. Coastal habitats, essential for the spawning and growth of many fish species, are especially susceptible. A study published in the journal Science found that fish populations could decline by 3-5% for every degree Celsius of ocean warming, impacting fisheries, with a projected loss of 20-30% in fish biomass in some regions by 2050.

Mangroves, coral reefs, and estuaries are important breeding sites and nurseries for various marine species. However, these habitats are being swamped with saltwater, which can result in habitat loss and deterioration. Consider the Great Barrier Reef, which has experienced significant bleaching events, with over 50% of its coral cover lost since 1985.

Rising ocean levels also increase the frequency and intensity of storm surges and coastal floods. These occurrences can damage fishing communities and infrastructure, resulting in economic loss and community dislocation. The International Organization for Migration predicts that by 2050, there could be up to 200 million climate migrants globally, many of whom will be displaced due to rising sea levels and the loss of habitable land.

Economic and Social Implications

The fishing business employs and provides money for 200 million people worldwide. Small-scale fisheries, in particular, depend significantly on healthy marine ecosystems. As ocean levels rise and ecosystems are destroyed, fish stocks fall, resulting in lower harvests and economic hardship for fishing communities. This is especially important in underdeveloped nations, where fishing is typically a significant source of income and protein for the populace.

The decline in fish supplies owing to increasing sea levels has far-reaching consequences for global food security. Fish and seafood are vital parts of the worldwide diet, providing an essential source of protein and minerals. A decrease in fish abundance might increase prices, making seafood less affordable for many. This condition exacerbates food insecurity, particularly in areas with limited alternate protein sources.

Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy

Addressing the impact of rising ocean levels on fisheries necessitates a diversified approach that includes mitigation and adaptation techniques. Mitigation measures must focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global warming rate and, as a result, curb sea level rise. Converting to renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks like forests and wetlands are all critical steps in this direction.

Adaptation techniques are equally vital in protecting the fishing sector and the global food supply. These strategies include the following:

  • Protecting and restoring coastal habitats: Efforts to maintain and rehabilitate mangroves, coral reefs, and estuaries can help them withstand rising sea levels and continue to support marine life.
  • Developing sustainable fishing techniques: By implementing sustainable fishing methods and enhancing fisheries management, fish stocks can be kept healthy and viable in the long term.
  • Building resilient infrastructure: Investing in robust infrastructure for fishing villages, such as raised and fortified structures, can help mitigate the effects of coastal flooding and storm surges.
  • Diversifying livelihoods: Providing alternative livelihood choices for fishing communities can help lessen their reliance on fishing and increase their economic resilience.

In conclusion, rising ocean levels significantly threaten fisheries and global food security. The impact on marine ecosystems, coastal populations, and fish stocks is substantial and demands immediate attention. By combining mitigation efforts to address the core causes of climate change with adaptation methods to preserve and sustain fishing communities, we can work to ensure a stable and secure food supply for future generations. The challenge is great, but with a united global effort, we can reduce the effects and create a more resilient and sustainable future for our seas and those who rely on them.

Also Read: What Is Sustainable Fish Farming & How To Achieve It?

 

Author

  • Dr. Emily Greenfield

    Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.

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