Climate crisis affects Galapagos small scale fisheries sector

Coming back after a long day of fishing. fisherfokes pier "Pelikan Bay", Puerto Ayora, Galapagos. Photo by: Bryan Perez, Charles Darwin Foundation.

--- Press Release --- A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), involving several institutions, including the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), found that the number of fish in some tropical regions could decrease by 30% to 40% by 2100 from the impact of climate change. As a result, fisheries management and governance need to be improved to avoid overexploitation of fishery resources, degradation of marine ecosystems and livelihoods of coastal communities, which depend on fisheries as a source of food, employment and economic income. Otherwise, these fishing communities would be severely threatened by the effects of climate change.

According to Pablo Guerrero, Director of Marine Conservation at WWF, studies show that many of the fish species in high demand by small scale fisheries could lose their food source and habitat in the ecosystem, due to the increase in global temperature. Guerrero further indicates that even if global warming is maintained at 1.5° C, the consequences of this effect will be important.

The publication focuses on impacts and possible climate change adaptation strategies for small scale fisheries in mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, South Africa and the Philippines. This global study looks at the effects of the climate crisis on small scale fisheries, combining climate models derived from scientific research and local knowledge of fishers.

"Fisheries research in Galapagos has a long tradition. And there is substantial scientific knowledge produced about this important sector. However, this present study nicely, for the first time, illustrates an integral and coherent approach at looking at fisheries, through the climate change lense, from diverse disciplinary and knowledge formats, standpoints. And this interdisciplinary approach, integrated with the fisher's knowledge greatly contributes to our better understanding of this highly complex and dynamic systems." said María José Barragán P., CDF Acting Executive Director and Science Director, and co-author of the study.

A study called "Small scale fisheries in a warming ocean", where the CDF participated in, later showed that fishing areas that are located in countries near the equatorial line, where waters are warmer and more acidic, will be the epicentre for the greatest impact for fishing systems. This reality is already experienced by the artisanal fishers of the Galapagos, who state that "in recent years, marine ecosystems have shown changes, especially in the abundance of fish".

This situation has become one of increasing concern for this industry due to the decrease in fish stocks that are of great commercial importance. Since, the reduction of fish implies a greater effort to carry out the work and even a further mobilization in search of the resource.

Jorge Ramírez, the CDF interdisciplinary fisheries project leader explains: "One of the main findings of the study was that fishers in the Galapagos are very concerned about climate change, and mentioned various adaptation measures that are the basis for fisheries management plans."

It is therefore, necessary to improve fisheries management and governance, as well as strategies to implement climate adaptation practices, integrating scientific and local knowledge, to achieve a participatory, resilient and socially responsible fisheries sector.

"Local ecological knowledge of fisherfolk in the Galapagos is key to reporting on the ecology of fishing species, disposition, change and pressure on fishery resources, as well as climate change indicator species, and with potential for commercial fisheries management." Mentions Gabriela Rodríguez, CDF social scientist and co-author of the study.

This research was developed by WWF with the support of the Charles Darwin Foundation, the National Fisheries Institute, Agrocampus Ouest and the University of British Columbia. The work done by the CDF is thanks to the support from the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. This initiative aims to promote coordinated work and appropriate actions to counteract these effects and thus have long-term fisheries resources.

You can download more information from the link: https://wwflac.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/wwf_fishforeward_studie2020_en_web.pdf.

The “Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands”, in French “Fondation Charles Darwin pour les îles Galapagos”, Association International sans but lucratif (“AISBL”), has its registered office located at Chaussée de la Hulpe 177 Bte 20 (rez) - 1170, Brussels, and is registered under the trade registry of Brussels under the number 0409.359.103.

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