(EnergyAsia, June 21 2012, Thursday) — The world’s marine life and ocean fish supplies are being threatened by climate change, said a new report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

According to “Frontline Observations on Climate Change and the Sustainability of Large Marine Ecosystems”, climate change is already impacting the livelihoods of billions of people dependent on the US$12 trillion generated annually by these ecosystems.

Warming ocean waters are causing major shifts in fish distribution and severe degradation of coastal habitats, said the report citing the following examples:

– In West Africa, large populations of sardines are moving away from traditional fishing grounds, causing a major loss in protein supplies for the region.

– In northwest Africa, stocks of sardines and mackerel in the Canary’s marine ecosystems are moving from traditional fishing areas in Senegal northward towards cooler waters off the coast of Mauritania.

– In southwest Africa, sardines and mackerel populations are moving southward from Namibia, towards the cooler waters of the Benguela marine ecosystems and onto the Agulhas banks area of South Africa.

– In Asia, the increased intensity of monsoon rains in the Bay of Bengal marine ecosystems is lowering the salinity of surface waters. Lower salinity is inhibiting nutrient replenishment of surface waters, thereby lowering natural productivity, and fish populations.

In all instances, the change has put at risk the food security for millions of people in coastal communities.

The report said that climate change is raising sea levels, causing coastal erosion, and acidifying the world’s oceans through increase carbon dioxide emissions.

Yannick Glemarec, executive coordinator of UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF), said:

“The growing risks and impacts of climate change on oceans require the world to urgently invest in a green economy whereby countries achieve development targets in an environmentally sustainable way while at the same time meeting the needs of their citizens.”

To combat the deleterious effects of climate change, the GEF, its agencies and the World Bank have mobilised over US$4 billion to recover and sustain the goods and services of marine ecosystems in over 100 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

The report cited the following projects:

– In the Yellow Sea, China and South Korea have committed to reduce fishing effort by 33%, buy back retired vessels, retrain fisherman for alternative livelihoods, and reduce nutrient discharges by 10% every five years.

– In the Humboldt Current ecosystem, Chile and Peru are protecting 18-20% of the world’s annual marine fish catch through ecosystem based management and specific catch levels for fish species such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.