Shifting gear: achieving climate-smart fisheries

Wednesday 18 August 2021

A trawler ship out on the ocean, surrounded by birds

WWF, RSPB and the Marine Conservation Society report calls on UK to show world leadership by adopting a ‘climate-smart’ strategy for the fisheries sector.

The new report launched today illustrates the UK’s opportunity to futureproof its fisheries and show world leadership by adopting a ‘climate-smart’ strategy for the fishing sector. The report explores the importance of oceans and coastal habitats to capture and store carbon to meet our net-zero targets, as recent efforts have shown these habitats play a bigger part in capturing more carbon per unit area than terrestrial ecosystems such as forests and peatlands.

There is a need to ensure management of our seas drives change to sustain our seas and the wildlife they support for the future. Industries operating in and around our oceans have a vital role to play in tackling climate change and contributing to the goal of net-zero carbon emissions and fisheries are no exception. While certain fisheries are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the sector also contributes to anthropogenic driven climate change, due to emissions from fossil fuel use as well as the disturbance of marine ecosystems and disruption to vital blue carbon, the carbon captured and stored in coastal and marine ecosystems.

To ensure our fisheries are climate-smart, the report makes it clear that governments and stakeholders across all four nations must help UK fisheries to re-think practices and modernise, calling on UK governments to make good on the commitment made in the Fisheries Act 2020, and put UK fisheries on a sustainable footing by adopting a ‘climate-smart’ strategy, that would:

  • reduce the carbon emissions that come directly from the UK fishing fleet;
  • enhance marine biodiversity by reducing, and where possible reversing, the damage from unsustainable fishing practices;
  • increase the potential for UK seas to act as a carbon sink by helping protect blue carbon habitats.

Report Recommendations:

  • Work to decarbonise the UK fleet including removing fuel subsidies and eliminate inefficient fleet structures.
  • Limit bottom towed fishing gear to protect and support the recovery of blue carbon within current MPAs and in key areas outside of MPAs.
  • Mandate Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) with cameras that incorporate Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) across vessels fishing in UK waters to deliver increased transparency and traceability across the UK fishing industry to improve stock health, increase biomass and play a role in monitoring and tackling seabird bycatch.
  • Reduce pressure from heavy, towed bottom fisheries gear and review the impact of passive gear use and whether incentives for gear changes are appropriate.
  • Strengthen overall marine policy frameworks with a climate change lens such as the UK Marine Strategy, to make them fit for purpose in a bid to combat the climate crisis.
  • Increase research and knowledge on blue carbon habitats, stocks, and the fishing sectors GHG emissions and blue carbon impact.

The RSPB believe securing a healthy resilient ocean, working in collaboration to reduce impacts of industries and effectively spatial plan activities at sea is key to achieving positive outcomes for people and wildlife. This has never been more vital in the wake of the IPCC report, which identified the need for ambitious actions if we are to keep warming below 1.5. As we look ahead to the COP26 climate summit, adopting a climate-smart strategy is crucial in tackling climate change and meeting our net-zero targets.

Read the full report here.

Last Updated: Tuesday 25 January 2022

Tagged with: Country: International Country: UK Topic: Conservation Topic: General Topic: Marine and water Topic: Science