The Maldives is the world’s most vulnerable country to the food-security related impacts of climate change, a new report has found.
According to ‘Ocean-Based Food Security Threatened in a High CO2 World’, produced by global ocean protection NGO Oceana, the Maldives ranks alongside Togo and Comoros as the most vulnerable to climate-change related food security threats, due to its near total reliance on fish for protein.
The rankings were calculated by combining each nation’s exposure to climate change and ocean acidification, dependence on and consumption of fish and seafood, and level of adaptive capacity based on socioeconomic factors.
“Many of the high-ranking nations based on climate change indicators are located in the tropics and low latitudes,” the report notes.
“This reflects the general trend that fish species are predicted to be migrating toward the poles as water temperatures continue to rise. Tropical countries are the most dependent on coral reef fisheries which are severely threatened.
“Island and coastal nations depend more heavily on fish for protein, especially the poorest nations, increasing their vulnerability. Many of the poorest places are already struggling with hunger issues which will be made worse with high population growth rates and limited additional options for food.”
Half the protein consumed in the Maldives is derived from fish, the report observed, and besides providing direct food protein, countries such as the Maldives also benefited from marine tourism jobs associated with coral reefs and marine life.
“This multi-billion dollar industry could also be threatened by climate change. Therefore, further assessments should incorporate the risks to food security that come from losses in income due to the disappearance of fisheries and tourism related jobs. Local changes to marine resources from ocean acidification and climate change could ripple up through the global economy,” the report found.
‘So long and thanks for all the fish’
Minivan News has earlier reported on the decline of the fishing industry in the Maldives due to an array of factors, notably high-tech and efficient purse seiner vessels from other nations ringing the country’s exclusive economic zone. The traditional – and sustainable – pole and line method used by Maldivian fishermen has left them unable to compete with GPS enabled, sonar-equipped fish aggregation devices of these vessels.
Local fisheries have also been affected by market impacts, particularly the move by major fisheries companies in the Maldives to ship tuna to Thailand for canning and processing despite the presence of local factories – many tins sold locally in shops now have ‘packed in Thailand’ on the label.
Former head of the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO), Adhil Saleem, previously informed Minivan News that changing sea surface temperatures due to climate change were also driving fish deeper, reducing the stocks within reach of the traditional pole and line method.
“Our [pole and line] method only works near the surface,” he said. “But with changes in weather and sea temperature, fish will not surface.”
According to figures from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), tuna fishing is the second largest export earner at US$52 million and the country’s largest employer at 40 percent, but in the last three years contributed only 2 percent of the country’s GDP, dwarfed by the tourism industry. Catches meanwhile declined eight percent in 2011.