Vanuatu stakeholders in fisheries and aquaculture identify priority adaptations to climate change

The Vanuatu Fisheries Department, SPC, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), AusAID (the Australian Agency for International Development) and Vanuatu's National Advisory Board on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction held a two-day workshop in Port Vila on 30 and 31 May to help stakeholders in the fisheries and aquaculture sector identify priority adaptations to climate change.


The workshop was attended by staff from the Vanuatu Fisheries Department, other government departments, non-governmental organisations, tourism operators, community fishermen's associations and aquaculture partners. Participants learned about the effects of global warming and ocean acidification on the ecosystems and stocks supporting fisheries and aquaculture, and the consequences for economic development, food security and livelihoods.


'The aim of the workshop was to determine how best to build the resilience of coastal communities, and enterprises based on tuna and aquaculture, to climate change,' said the Director of the Fisheries Department, Moses Amos. 'We would like all stakeholders to identify adaptations that minimise the risks posed by climate change, and maximise the opportunities,' he said.


Participants heard how some fisheries resources are expected to lose as the climate changes, while others are likely to gain. Some countries in the east of the region may also have more tuna in their exclusive economic zones as these fish respond to projected changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean.


Another important message at the workshop was that continued degradation of coral reefs due to increases in coral bleaching and ocean acidification are expected to reduce the productivity of coastal fisheries by 20 per cent by 2050.


'This will reduce the amount of coastal fish available for food security,' said Christopher Arthur from the Fisheries Department. 'But our most immediate challenge is to provide access to more fish for our growing population so that we can all eat enough fish for a healthy lifestyle,' he said.


'The gap between how much fish we need for our food security and how much fish coastal habitats can provide is widening,' said Mr Arthur. 'We need to manage our coastal fish habitats and stocks well to reduce the size of this gap, and then find ways to fill the gap so that we can continue to eat the amount of fish we should,' he said.


Workshop participants also learned about some climate change management and adaptation options that are already used in Vanuatu to increase access to fish - inshore fish aggregating devices (FADs) and backyard pond aquaculture - and are practical ways to fill the widening gap. These strategies are effective adaptations to climate change because FADs will help supply fish as reefs degrade and aquaculture may be favoured by the projected changes in rainfall.


'SPC, GIZ and other partners are assisting the Fisheries Department to implement these ways of increasing access to fish,' said Moses Amos. 'Tuna caught by communities around FADs will need to provide most of the addtional fish needed for Vanuatu's growing population, but aquaculture will help supply fish for people with limited access to tuna,' he said.


Moses Amos also emphasised that such win-win adaptations - those that supply fish for food security now and which may be favoured, or not adversely affected, by climate change - are prime investments for the nation's development partners.