Innovations in Aquaculture Production and Fisheries Management Build Climate Resilience
Like many sectors of agriculture and food production, changes in climate and extreme weather events can have significant impacts on the aquaculture and fisheries industries. Aquaculture in Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate pressures, both in coastal regions and inland. In southern Bangladesh, producers are affected by cyclones, hurricanes and other storms that cause significant damage. Increased rainfall has also led to flooding, salinity intrusion in soil, waterlogging and erosion. Meanwhile, the cost of inland aquaculture is rising due to severe floods caused by increased rainfall and severe weather events.
In Africa, rising sea surface temperature is a climate-related threat to coastal fisheries. Rising temperatures are degrading coastal habitats, which will both change the type of fish species available for fisheries as well as increase the risk that storms will affect coastal communities.
Austin Humphries, the East Africa specialist for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish, and Joanna Springer, RTI International and the resilience specialist for the Fish Innovation Lab, are working with Fish Innovation Lab researchers to identify key, climate-related challenges for the program’s target beneficiaries and opportunities to help them build climate resilience.
“For example, increasing water temperatures kill coral reefs,” Humphries said. “This in turn reduces the natural infrastructure that serves to buffer storm surge, leaving coastal communities vulnerable and without a first line of defense to hazards. In these areas, it is particularly important to have a well-managed coastal ecosystem and fisheries.”
The Fish Innovation Lab is working to address climate-related shocks to aquaculture and fisheries through current research to estimate aquaculture production and value chain performance in Bangladesh and promote sustainable fisheries management in East African biodiversity hotspots and climate refugia.
Integrating Data to Understand Climate Shocks
Digital technologies, such as machine learning, remote sensing, smartphones, social media, open-source data collection and video production software, open up an array of new possibilities for collecting, analyzing and communicating information to address climate change. The Fish Innovation Lab’s Harnessing Machine Learning project strives to combine survey-based research techniques with digital technologies to disseminate knowledge to reach and serve a diverse audience of actors throughout the aquaculture value chain.
The project team added modules to their farm-level survey (720 farming households) and community survey (seven districts, 37 communities) on climate risk, exposure and adaptation. The farm-level survey, which was conducted from December 2020 through January 2021, had questions to gain information relating to different aspects of climate change, such as 10 different types of extreme weather conditions and their frequency in the last 10 years, as well as whether respondents adopted any of 19 different adaptations to better prepare for extreme weather conditions.
“The community-level questionnaire asked about extreme weather events experienced at the village level in the last 10 years, and then asked the most recent occurrence,” Springer said.
“There is potential to contribute to climate impact reporting and responsiveness by leveraging local capacity for action research with farmers that incorporates monitoring climate impacts and training on climate adaptation.
“The project team has engaged the Department of Fisheries at the district level, the Bangladesh Water Development Board, universities and the private sector through trainings and management support at the early stages. There is great potential for these actors to continue monitoring climate effects. The same actors could also support climate adaptation by using the information gleaned about climate effects to prepare new digital or in-person trainings on climate adaptation techniques.”
See the “Learn More” section at the bottom of the project webpage to watch their videos and see their reports.
Achieving Coral Reef Fishery Sustainability
Southern Kenya’s coral reefs and associated ecosystems support high biological diversity that sustains coastal communities. The local communities are often poor, marginalized and susceptible to poverty traps. Seafood consumption is essential to community health through the provision of protein and critical micronutrients. However, high seafood production and sustainability are threatened by excessive fishing efforts and climate impacts. Unsustainable behaviors include the common use of destructive fishing gears, such as beach seines and small-mesh nets. Climate and sedimentation stressors further threaten the productivity that these communities depend on.
Led by the Wildlife Conservation Society, a Fish Innovation Lab project is partnering with local beach management units to foster community stewardship to achieve sustainable fisheries management in southern Kenya.
“The Achieving Coral Reef Fishery Sustainability project is a good example of work that can be done to shore up fishing livelihoods in a location that is predicted to be less exposed to climate change impacts, or a ‘climate refugia’ — here the key element is site selection,” Humphries said. “Sustainability depends on choosing to work in a climate refugia, which is predicted to be less impacted by rising sea temperatures.
“Scaling would require similar site selection considerations from projects. Future projects would need to justify site selection with inclusion criteria explicitly considering climate change. The goal would be to improve the livelihoods of existing communities, rather than encouraging new entrants into fishing in order to avoid excessive competitive pressure on a natural resource-dependent livelihood. In other words, make fisheries management operational and successful in places that are predicted to fare better under a changing climate, which is the goal of the project.”
Read “Increasing the Capacity for Achieving Sustainable Fisheries Management in Kenya” for more about how local fisheries officers and members of the beach management units have been trained through the project to monitor fish catch data and are in the process of collecting that information at local boat landings.
“Using digital technologies in Bangladesh aquaculture and managing fisheries in climate refugia are both examples of methods that can provide resilience to climate events,” said Fish Innovation Lab director Mark Lawrence. “The Fish Innovation Lab aims to integrate methods like these into its activities to ensure aquaculture and fisheries livelihoods are not lost due to shocks such as weather events.”