For Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Fiji, climate change adaptation requires immediate action. As my colleague Val analyzed previously, fish stocks are depleted and international tensions are rising as each nation attempts to protect the fishing economy it still maintains. When the Ocean Conference met in June of 2017, participants recognized the crucial role oceans play as a climate regulator and the impact the changing environment would have on food and nutrition. This will be particularly impactful on SIDS as fisheries fade; those nations now cast for ideas in alternative food options. Some SIDS have hooked on aquaculture as an adaptive strategy.
The average consumption of seafood in the world is roughly 20 kg/capita/year with 70% of SIDS exceeding that global average. That, with the rising ocean temperatures, the migration of fish out of their previously habitable areas and the unsustainable fishing practices, creates a massive deficit in global fish markets when measured against demand. This mismatch creates the perfect atmosphere for aquaculture development.
In 2015, the total aquaculture production of SIDS was 71,893 tons, with Cuba manning the helm with around 30,000 tons. Overall, most nations produced less than 100 tons of aquaculture and the diversity of SIDS creates a particular problem with the implementation of any “one-size-fits-all” program. Branching off of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)’s FAO program, Palau, Nauru, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) formed the Micronesian Association for Sustainable Aquaculture (MASA) in November of 2015. MASA’s goal is to facilitate region specific cooperative programs and assistance in order to meet demand and reduce market reliance on fish.
Implementation of these adaptation techniques is an issue that runs through COP 23 and is recognized also by the Oceans Conference. The Oceans Conference emphasized the need for sustainable development goals (SDG14), and a Blue Economy to support and finance ocean initiatives. It specifically mentioned the strengthening of sustainable economies with reference to aquaculture within their action plan. Based on that action plan, the Seychelles raised roughly $40 million towards their SDG14 and their INDC places a heavy emphasis on sustainable fisheries and adaptation to ocean climate change. This funding will have a substantial impact on their ocean economy. But funding is challenging to acquire. With the Green Climate Fund (GCF) increasing fund accessibility for least developed countries (LDC) for adaptation plans, this could present an opportunity for many nations who have already implemented or are in the process of implementing aquaculture plans to acquire necessary funding. While the GCF does not specifically address aquaculture as an adaptation strategy, several nations, including SIDS like Vanuatu and Tuvalu, have already included in their GCF proposals aquaculture adaptation strategies.
With the current momentum aquaculture development has gained in SIDS, COP 23 has the unique advantage for aquaculture and sustainable fishing measures with Fiji at its helm. While the focus of the Paris Agreement was the mitigation of effects to reduce the overall rise in temperature, adaptation still remains a strong focus for the countries that are feeling the most significant of those effects. Aquaculture has worked its way into the economies of many nations and will hopefully further alleviate the burden that climate change is having on SIDS.