We are three scientists from different backgrounds and careers: men and women; of Latin American, African and Anglo-Saxon heritage; student researcher, doctor and professor; biogeochemist, marine biologist and economist.
But as diverse as our fields of study may seem, two things unite us: we have long known that a healthy ocean is critical to life on land and, more recently, we have learned that healthy fishing is a crucial and viable factor. . part of climate action.
We want the world to know that conserving fish, fisheries, marine ecosystems and the carbon services they provide will help us secure the environmental future we need.
Ocean issues, including but not limited to fisheries, must take center stage when it comes to writing climate policy, and we see the upcoming UN climate conference, COP26 in Glasgow, as a crucial opportunity for that to happen.
Our species cannot survive without healthy seas
Humanity is nothing without the ocean. It is the source of all life on our planet. It produces half the oxygen we breathe. It provides a reservoir for biodiversity, and is the second largest carbon pool on earth.
Currently, the seas absorb (“sequester”) between 20 and 30 percent of global emissions and have absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat generated since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
By some estimates, without this cooling effect, global temperatures would be 35 ° C warmer, which makes life on Earth unsustainable for most species, including our own.
The data and understanding of fish, and the influence of fishing on the ocean’s ability to store that carbon, are less well understood. Fortunately, this knowledge has advanced rapidly in recent years.
The seas may be the source of all life on our planet, but they are also on the front lines of what the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, described as “humanity’s war against nature”.
In this case, the war is fought in part with industrial fishing boats, designed to track and catch massive quantities of fish.
If we continue down this path, we could unleash irreversible changes in ecological conditions under which humanity has evolved and prospered for a long time.
Fishing is part of the solution
To get out of this mess, we must turn the political arena that equipped and enabled this war into one that recognizes ocean biodiversity and the preservation of healthy fish populations as an integral part of climate and ecological “success.”
Countries must demobilize and reorient, modernize and re-equip their fisheries. Instead of running to catch shrinking fish populations, we need to fish less.
We also need to fish in ways that respect marine food webs, ending the destruction of so-called “unwanted” species and supporting human livelihoods.
At the same time, we must recognize and support the efforts of fishing companies already striving to fish sustainably and supporting small-scale fishers and coastal communities to become more resilient to climate change.
Research shows that this is possible. Doing so would allow the seas to absorb more carbon, have fewer carbon emissions, and be beneficial to both people and profits.
Europeans will be among the hardest hit by trawling
TO recent article by conservationist Enric Sala and his colleagues described how all marine sediments combine to form the largest pool of organic carbon on the planet.
However, destructive fishing methods such as trawling cause the release of CO2 stored in marine sediments. According to their estimates, trawling releases approximately 1.47 billion tons of carbon each year – a volume similar to emissions from the global aviation industry.
For Europeans, this is especially relevant because new research shows that European seas are some of the heaviest to drag, but also the richest in carbon.
Ocean solutions to climate change can provide up to a fifth of the necessary emission reductions we need if we want to limit climate change to 1.5 ° C.
Leaving fish in the ocean can contribute to these efforts. This is new, it’s exciting, and it’s climate action that we can (and desperately need) to deliver quickly.
Ocean Health Spotlight at COP26
At the COP26 negotiations in Glasgow, nature will be discussed as a central element of strategies to reduce climate change.
But although the third Statement ‘Because the ocean’ to be launched by coastal / island nations around the world, along with other blue carbon events, these are likely to play a minor role in the nitty-gritty of carbon counting taking place in official negotiations.
This is the fifth COP since the signing of the Paris Agreement. Many big emitting countries are struggling to show how their promises to cut emissions will be enough.
And in some cases, our language is even missing. Mentions of the ocean during the negotiations have been few and far between.
We’ve known for decades that ending overfishing is the right thing to do for both fisheries and biodiversity.
As scientists studying fish and fisheries, we argue that all countries with an ocean fleet can take steps to implement ocean-climate actions today by eliminating destructive fishing practices (including overfishing) and counting fish as part of their national inventories. Carbon Emissions and Storage.
A healthy ocean is not a sideshow of climate action. Is essential. And we have to start treating it as such.
Emma Cavan is a researcher at Imperial College London. Erica M. Ferrer is a Ph.D. candidate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. Rashid Sumaila is a Killam University Professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism