Impacts of Climate Change on African Fisheries

Fisheries play important roles for food supply, income generation & nutrition. The following article is a compiled tweets. The International Climate Change Development Initiative (ICCDI), quoted “Magda Lovei”, Practice Manager, Env. & Natural Resources Global Practice, World Bank as she discusses “Impacts of climate change on African Fisheries”.

The impact of Climate Change on hydrology and other natural resources, and on many sectors of African economies—from agriculture to transport, to energy—has been widely researched and discussed. But its effect on marine fisheries, an important economic sector and a significant source of food for large numbers of people in Africa, is less well understood.

Climate change leads to rising sea temperatures, making fish stocks migrate toward colder waters away from equatorial latitudes, and contributing to shrinking fish sizes. Complicated by the fact that factors like pollution and illegal fishing act as additional stressors to the marine environment.

It also influences the abundance, migratory patterns, and mortality rates of wild fish stocks. In East Africa, ocean warming has already destroyed parts of the coral reef where certain species live & reduced fish stocks.

In some West African countries, such as in Sierra Leone, rising sea levels have resulted in the flooding of coastal zones, deepening the vulnerability of coastal populations.

Globally, it is predicted that climate change will reduce fish catches by 7.7% and revenues from it by 10.4% by 2050 under a high CO2 emissions scenario (Lam, Cheung, Reygondeau, Sumaila, 2016). These changes are expected to increase the vulnerability of the region (through economics and food security of west Africa) to climate change. This decrease in the catch may be as much of a drop as 26% in parts of West Africa & could be higher in other parts of West Africa closer to the equator: a 53% drop in fish in Nigeria, 56% in Cote d’Ivoire & 60% in Ghana.

According to Lam et al ( 2012), combining with economic parameters, it is projected that a 21% drop in annual landed value, 50% decline in fisheries related jobs and a total annual loss of US$311 million in the whole economy of west Africa. This isn’t an option! Something needs to be done, government in collaboration with NGO’s should work as unity towards fighting against climate change.

More than 12million people work in the fisheries sector in Sub-Saharan Africa with remarkable employment multiplier effects: For every fisherman’s job, 1.04 additional onshore-jobs are created in Mauritania & 3.15 in Guinea. However, the fisheries sector has been under pressure from over-fishing—the result of weak governance and illegal fishing—a situation now compounded by the impact of climate change.

Urgent action is needed both to respond to the impact of climate change and improve the sustainable management of African fisheries. Without this, the volume of fish available 4 consumption in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to decline at an annual rate of 1% or 5.6 kilograms per person per year – by 2030, and the ripple effects for communities relying on fisheries for food, jobs, and wealth creation could be even larger, causing acute vulnerability (due in part to weak adaptive capacity).

Vulnerable communities adapt the best way they can in the absence of government support – sometimes this might mean engaging in activities that undermine the security of the state.

What needs to be done?

To prioritize cost-effective options and guide investment we need to understand the scale and extent of climate impact better. The World Bank has invited partners to take stock of what is known, identify knowledge gaps, and come up with options.

The African Union has also recently endorsed a plan to launch a regional study assessing the impact of climate change on Africa’s fisheries, as well as looking at the policy implications of it.

The study would be done by the World Bank in coordination with the United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and in consultation with countries and clients. The study will map the extent of vulnerability across Africa’s coastal zones; assess climate change-driven risks, basing it on biophysical and socioeconomic analysis; estimate the cost of inaction and the limits of implementing mitigation and adaptation measures, and identify options for intervention that could truly boost the potential of Africa’s fisheries.

Meanwhile, investing in improved fisheries governance & management, in livelihood support for fishíng communities, & in measures for increasing coastal resilience remain a high priority for African coastal economies. Country-specific projects & programs, such as the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program & the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Program are already doing this. These efforts need to grow for the good of millions of people in Africa.


VWY Lam , WWL Cheung , W Swartz & UR Sumaila (2012). ‘Climate change impacts on fisheries in WestAfrica: implications for economic, food and nutritional security’, African Journal of Marine Science, 34:1, 103-117, DOI:10.2989/1814232X.2012.673294

Lam, Cheung, Reygondeau, Sumaila (2016). ‘Projected change in global fisheries revenues under climate change’. 

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