In a response to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Marine Stewardship Council called on the fishing industry and governments to urgently step up co-operation to ensure the preservation of marine ecosystems in the context of climate change.
The landmark report on climate change and oceans, published by the IPCC, adds to the already mounting evidence of the profound impact of climate change on economies, businesses, and communities that rely on fishing for livelihood and nutrition.
The report provides evidence of a shift in the distribution of marine species across hundreds of kilometres and changes in the structure of ecosystems, resulting in significant changes to potential seafood catch.
The MSC is seeing the impact of this change in some of the most well-managed fisheries, that are struggling to cope with stock fluctuations, in part due to climate change.
Recently, the decline in North Sea cod stocks has been attributed to fewer cod reaching maturity, partly because of climate change.
The changes in ocean dynamics have also affected the distribution of mackerel in the North-East Atlantic, the study found.
The fish have been driven further north into cooler seas, resulting in challenges with the joint management of the stock.
'Sustainable Fisheries Management'
Regional director of Northern Europe at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Hans Nieuwenhuis, said, "The IPCC report demonstrates that progress towards sustainable fisheries management is now more urgent than ever before. Sustainable, well-managed fisheries which have effective monitoring, regulation and management systems in place are more resilient and able to adapt to climate change. Yet globally governments and fisheries managers are already struggling to reach consensus on how to manage ocean resources in a way which reflects the new reality of changing climates.
"Taking a precautionary approach to setting catches and evolving fishing practices to reflect changing scientific advice and migration patterns is not easy but it must be done if we are to continue to enjoy the plentiful seafood and preserve marine life.
"Fisheries that meet the MSC’s international standards for sustainability, representing 15% global seafood catch, show that this can be done. These fisheries balance economic and environmental priorities to safeguard our oceans and seafood supplies. However, climate change threatens to undermine these hard efforts if international consensus and responses cannot be found," he added.
International Cooperation Is Vital
The suspension of MSC certification of North-East Atlantic mackerel earlier this year demonstrates the challenge in reaching international consensus on managing fishing stocks that are moving across geopolitical boundaries.
Following the rapid change in the distribution of mackerel since 2007, coastal states have been unable to agree on catch quotas in line with scientific advice.
To resolve this issue, the mackerel fisheries have committed to delivering an effective harvest strategy and well-defined harvest control rules by the middle of next year.
The MSC is working with partners to support these efforts and resolve the dispute.
"The situation of the North-East Atlantic mackerel is a demonstration of the urgent need for international cooperation and agreement if fisheries are to continue to fish sustainably and adapt to climate change," Nieuwenhuis said.
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