COP27 blog series: fisheries and climate change

November 11, 2022 by No Comments | Category Climate Change, Fisheries

Human activities are causing unprecedented rates of change to our climate, and the impacts of these changes are already apparent in Scottish waters. In the context of the global Climate Emergency, Scotland is committed by law to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045.  

Wild capture fisheries are an important component of Scotland’s marine economy. The fishing industry plays an important part role, alongside all sectors of our society, in reducing emissions and helping to create a low carbon economy with clean, green jobs. 

During last year’s COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, we surveyed the wild capture fishing sector to gauge their preparedness on the impacts of climate change to the Scottish fishing sector.   In total, 66 respondents participated, from a range of backgrounds with fishing industry representatives making up the majority of the responses (59.1%).  

The results show strong engagement and recognition of the topic of climate change across the Scottish fishing industry. This included issues relating to the emissions of greenhouse gases from the industry’s activities and also the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

We have analysed the survey responses and a number of key themes emerged: 

  • innovation – through changes in fuel, propulsion and gears – was seen as the clearest of mechanisms to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the sector, although there was a strong view that costs and access to innovation could be major barriers
  • shared responsibility to deliver climate action was recognised to be a key component of success, and needs to involve industry, government and research communities to support the sector and strengthen its resilience to climate change. There were also suggestions that others need to take on collective responsibility for action across the supply chain (for example wider distribution across public sector, industry, consumers, and retail), processors, maritime industries (propulsion, engines, technology), catering companies, local authorities and accreditation schemes
  • interaction between bottom-contacting fishing gears and natural carbon stores, as well as the disturbance to natural carbon stores by extraction of fish were clear ‘hot topics’ for survey respondents. However, there was also general recognition that there was a significant knowledge gap on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions due to interaction with carbon stored in sediments and habitats 
  • adaptation was also recognised heavily in responses with nearly half of respondents noting they were already seeing changes in conditions due to climate change. These changes include stormier weather, migration of species, growth rate of species, seasonality of species, algal blooms, and lice in salmon farms 

The survey has been extremely helpful in identifying key evidence gaps to better understand the wild capture fishing sector’s needs and will help to establish a clear pathway for action to deliver change in partnership with the sector. The results of this survey will look to inform the climate change action within Scotland’s Fisheries Management Strategy and the development of Scotland’s marine climate change programme.  

Further information:

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