Eyes on SIDS at COP26: How one country tracks zooplankton dynamics towards climate ready fisheries and food security

By Student Delegate Mackenzie Bindas

For some time now, vulnerable coastal communities and small island nations who rely on the ocean environment have been at increasingly high risk of climate-driven changes impacting food security.  Coastal communities and small island nations are intricately linked to the marine ecosystem.  Fisheries are the primary source of employment, revenue, and food security for these local businesses.  Communities depend on the fisheries to bring in tourism, which directly supports local businesses.  Fisheries also create various job opportunities for these communities, like owning and operating a fishing vessel, working as a deckhand, or harvesting and processing fish to sell.  Locals depend on the fisheries for their primary source of protein.  Without fisheries, these communities will lose jobs, food sources, and a part of their innate culture.

Warming sea temperatures is one of the biggest climate impacts affecting fisheries.  The ocean is a carbon sink absorbing excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) stored in the atmosphere.  An increase in ocean temperatures negatively affects marine species and ecosystems.  A warmer ocean can cause the loss of breeding grounds for marine fish and mammals.  Warming waters also creates toxins produced by algal blooms, which can diminish fish stocks because increased temperatures reduce oxygen levels in the water.  Thus, driving marine species to either migrate to new grounds or die.  For humans, a warming sea threatens food security and coastal protection.  Fish stocks will diminish as the sea warms, forcing fisheries to adapt their fishing grounds and potentially target new species.

Despite the harmful impacts of climate change on the marine environment, the Republic of Seychelles has continued to improve its Artisanal Fishery.  SeyCCAT has various projects to improve the technology and lifespan of the fishery.  One of SeyCCAT’s projects has begun to study the stability of fish’s primary food source, a small microorganism called zooplankton.  The project analyzes the population of zooplankton found within Seychelles waters to determine the condition of the marine ecosystem.  These small microorganisms give SeyCCAT insight into the spawning dynamics of various species and the fragility of its coastal environment. Climate change affects the largest marine species to the smallest.  If these small microorganisms were to disappear, small predators like fish would not be far behind.

Fish are the main protein source in Seychelles and coastal communities like Seychelles.  This project helps Seychelles become climate-ready by understanding the dynamics of its fishery in a changing climate.  Determining this zooplankton baseline can inform decision-making in sovereign waters while also contributing to the scientific knowledge hub needed for climate-ready fisheries around the world.

We’ll be supporting Angelique Pouponneau at next week’s side event, “Climate action for shared prosperity through aquatic food systems: Eyes on SIDS and beyond,” which will be held in the Water and Climate Pavilion on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 from 1445-1545 Glasgow time. Hosted by WorldFish, IWMI, and FAO, Angelique will be speaking about innovative financing for climate resilience of aquatic food systems.

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