African nations will be the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change on fisheries, ranging from damage to coral reefs to more severe river floods, according to a study of 132 nations on Thursday.
Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo were most at risk, according to the report which said it was the first to rank nations by their ability to adapt economically to projected impacts of global warming on fisheries.
“Countries of the developing world are going to find it most difficult to cope,” said Stephen Hall, head of the Malaysia-based World Fish Center which led the study by an international team of scientists.
Two-thirds of a group of 33 countries judged “highly vulnerable” were in Africa with most others in Asia and Latin America. Russia, with heavy reliance on fisheries, was the main exception in third place in the ranking.
“Although warming will be most pronounced at high latitudes, the countries with economies most vulnerable to warming-related effects on fisheries lie in the tropics,” according to the report, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries.
Shifts could include damage to corals, which are nurseries for many fish. Inland, droughts or floods can disrupt fish supplies in lakes or rivers. “Vulnerability is not limited to coastal states,” Hall said.
Those most at risk included Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone and landlocked Mali in Africa, Peru and Colombia in South America and Bangladesh, Pakistan and Vietnam in Asia.
“Vulnerability was due to the combined effect of predicted warming, the relative importance of fisheries to national economies and diets, and limited societal capacity to adapt to potential impacts and opportunities,” it said.
Worldwide, more than 2.6 billion people rely on fish for at least 20 percent of their protein intake. Rates of dependence on fish were higher in many of the vulnerable nations.
But the study lacked data for dozens of nations, including many small island developing states in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Hall said they were also likely to be at risk.
Hall said the study could prompt nations to think about how to safeguard fisheries. The U.N. Climate Panel says greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, will bring more heatwaves, disruptions to rainfall, and rising seas.
“The key measure is to invest in ensuring that the fisheries resources they have are well managed,” he said. Countries should also try to diversify their economies.