So far, a surprisingly small amount of research has been directed towards understanding the future implications of climate change for fishing fleets, fishermen, coastal economies and society and this is certainly the case within the United Kingdom. There are a number of studies that investigate the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the fisheries sector and dependent communities to climate change at a global scale (Allison et al. 2009; McClanahan et al. 2008). However, until recently there has been little directed analysis at the local scale of how climate variability and change is affecting the lives and livelihoods of those involved in the UK fishing and fish processing sectors.
A recent review paper by Badjeck et al. (2010) attempted identify the main pathways through which climate variability and change are impacting, or are likely to impact upon fishing-dependent communities in the future. The authors of this study point out that most research so far has looked at climate-driven changes in ocean productivity and its impact on fish distribution and have not considered indirect effects, such as the fact that extreme weather events may disrupt fishing operations and/or land-based infrastructure. Storms and severe weather events (which are anticipated to become more commonplace around the UK) can destroy landing sites, boats and fishing gear (Westlund et al. 2007). For instance, during Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, Jamaican fisherfolk lost 90% of their fish traps resulting in a huge loss of revenue and high cost of repairs, as well as resulting in the inability to resume fishing activities promptly after the disturbance (Aiken et al. 1992). Additionally, loss of revenues can be the result of closures or reduction of fisheries activities during weather anomalies, for example because of food safety concerns. In the UK, flash-floods are often accompanied by the release of untreated sewage from 'combined sewer overflows' (CSOs), and this can have serious consequences for shellfisheries or aquaculture facilities further downstream. Shellfisheries are monitored (for example by Cefas and Marine Scotland) to determine whether or not there are any signs of serious algal toxins, pathogenic bacteria or contaminants, and they are closed immediately if statutory levels have been exceeded. Peperzak (2003) attempted to evaluate whether harmful algal blooms are likely to occur more or less often over the next 100 years in the North Sea as a result of climate change, and concluded that we should expect more blooms, and hence fishery closures, largely as a consequence of an increase in extreme precipitation events (intense rainfall).
Fisheries managers and fisherfolk have historically had to adapt to the vagaries of weather and climate. Uncertainty is inherent in fisheries management, so there is an expectation of change and a stock of knowledge and experience of coping with it and adapting to it (Miller et al 1992). Badjeck et al. (2010) have argued that diversification is a primary means by which individuals can reduce risk and cope with future uncertainty. There is some evidence that the inability of fishing households to adapt to environmental change is not only linked to the level of poverty (or ability to raise capital), but also to the "specialization trap" where fisherfolk overly rely on one species or activity.
In the UK, fisheries contribute less than 0.05% to national GDP, however there are some regions where fisheries provide the mainstay of employment and are vitally important to the local economy. While fishermen account for a small percentage of the national workforce (0.2% in Scotland and 0.1% in England and Wales), national fishery statistics suggest that dependency is as high as 24% in the Western Isles, and 20% in Fraserburgh (NE Scotland), Brixham and Newlyn (SW England). Around 20% of UK fishermen are located in the south west of England and 13% in Aberdeenshire (see Anon. 2004), consequently, declines (or increases) in revenue as a result of climate change would be anticipated to affect these areas disproportionably more than any others. The fishing industry is also a significant component of Scotland's rural economy, for example in the North East and West Highland, Orkney and Shetland the value of landings accounts for approximately 6% of the area's GDP.
Arnason (2007) attempted to estimate the economic impact of climate change on fisheries and on the national economies of Iceland and Greenland. The author assumed that fisheries yields would increase by around 20% for the most important fish stocks (in particular cod and Atlanto-Scandian herring) in Iceland and up to 200% in Greenland over the next 50 years (based on projections from ACIA 2005). The analysis then used econometric techniques based on economic growth theory to estimate the role of the future fisheries sector in the wider economy of each country. Somewhat surprisingly the dramatic increase in fisheries yields assumed for Iceland resulted in only miniscule increases in national GDP, despite the fishing industry currently accounting around 10% of GDP and 40% of export earnings. The accumulative impact of climatic warming on Icelandic GDP was only 4% by 2054, and given economic volatility and measurement errors, this level of economic growth is considered hardly detectable at the 95% significance level. Benefits for the national economy of Greenland were greater (a 40% increase in GDP by 2054) but this assumed an enormous increase the fish stock (by 200%) and it should be remembered that the fishing industry in Greenland is the main source of non-government employment and local economic activity (over 90% of all exports). In the UK a slight increase in fisheries yield is also anticipated in the future, by around 1-2% (see Cheung et al. 2009b). Such change might be insignificant when uncertainties of the prediction are considered. Also, given the very small contribution that fisheries make towards national GDP it seems highly unlikely (based on the work of Arnason 2007) that such changes in fisheries profitability will have significant consequences for the national economy, although there could be minor benefits for highly dependent regions such as the Highlands and Islands.
The ACACIA report written by Des Clers (University College, London) and Brander (ICES) in 2000 provided the European impact assessment for the IPCC Third Assessment (2001) and includes a short chapter on Fisheries. Some of the economic and social implications of climate change for fisheries are set out in chapter 9 of the ACACIA report (ACACIA, 2000) from which Table 1, showing supply side and demand side adaptations of fisheries to climate change impacts, is taken. Many of the same adaptation options were also recently highlighted by McIlgorm et al. (2010) who reviewed how fishery governance may need to change in the light of future climate change.
In December 2009, Sumaila and Cheung (writing in a report for the World Bank) attempted to establish the costs of adaptation to climate change in the fisheries sector worldwide. The analysis began by detailing the likely impact of climate change on the productivity of marine fisheries (more than 1,000 species) and, through that, on landed catch values and household incomes. Adaptation costs were then estimated, based on the costs of restoring these revenue indicators to levels that would have prevailed in the absence of climate change. The impact of climate change on marine fisheries was assumed to primarily occur through changes in primary productivity, shifts in species distribution and through acidification of the oceans. The authors considered three scenarios that reflect these impacts. Climate change was predicted to lead to losses in gross fisheries revenues world-wide of $10-31 billion by 2050.
Governments have implemented various measures to manage fisheries, both to conserve fish stocks and to help communities that depend on fishery resources adapt to changes caused by overfishing and other factors. Measures include buybacks, transferable quotas, and investments in alternative sources of employment and income. Adaptation to climate change is likely to involve an extension of such policies, with a focus on providing alternative sources of income in fishing communities to lessen the dependence on fishery resources. In Europe (including the UK) the estimated annual cost of adaptation was between 0.03 and 0.15 $ billion. As compared to 1.05 - 1.70 $ billion of anticipated annual adaptation costs in East Asia and Pacific.
|Impact||Supply side||Demand side|
Fish distribution changes
- Revise fishing rights allocation
- Allocate species combinations (MSC) and access at ecosystem level
- Economic incentives to switch target species or use other gear
- Changes in consumer preferences driven by eco-labelling and certification (MSC accreditation)
- Quality labelling (the last wild food…)
- Improve product quality and life
- Reduce production inefficiencies and waste
- Introduce ecosystem/portfolio management
- Switch to new species
- Increase imports
- Taxes on ecological costs of fish
- Advertise unique nutritional value of fish, Inform customers
Table 1. Adaptations of fisheries to climate change (from chapter 9 of ACACIA, 2000)
Allison et al. (2009) provided an assessment of the 'vulnerability' of 132 national economies to potential climate change impacts on their capture fisheries using an indicator-based approach. Vulnerability to climate change depends upon three key elements: exposure (E) to physical effects of climate change, the degree of intrinsic sensitivity of the natural resource system or dependence of the national economy upon social and economic returns from that sector (S), and the extent to which adaptive capacity (AC) enables these potential impacts to be offset. In a further development of this work, Cefas scientists (as part of the recently completed NERC 'Quest-GSI' project) used a number of different Global Climate Models (GCMs) that provided outputs of sea surface temperature and improved formulation of fisheries catches. In terms of vulnerability, the authors ranked the UK as 215th out of 225, with good adaptive capacity and a relatively small anticipated impact. The Channel Islands were ranked 208 and the Isle of Man was ranked 218th.
To date it would seem that there have been few studies which have specifically looked at the socio-economics of the UK fishing fleet in relation to climate change. However a number of ongoing studies may provide useful insight in the near future, notably the NERC-funded 'Quest-Fish' project which aims to elucidate how climate change will affect global fish production and which may provide projections for industrial fisheries (e.g. those for sandeels) around the UK, as well as the Scottish aquaculture industry (which is reliant on international supplies of fish-meal). In addition, the Defra-funded ACME ('Adapting to Climate Change in the Marine Environment') project will build on the work of Cheung et al. (2009a,b) to predict the future re-distribution of fish stocks around the UK and how the UK fishing fleet will respond to these changes using a variety of different modelling approaches, including the 'Random Utility Model' developed by Hutton et al. (2004). Finally, the NERC-Defra joint call for research proposals on ocean acidification (published in July 2009) asked for submissions focussed on "Improved understanding of the potential population, community and ecosystem impacts for all life stages of commercially important species". This work is urgently needed to allay fears and to provide better information to the UK shellfish industry in particular.