By Pacific Island Times News Staff
If ocean warming continues at the current rates, the tuna catches in the combined waters of 10 Pacific islands is expected to decline by an average of 20 percent by 2050, according to the Secretariat of Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP).
SPREP warned that the devastation of the region's tuna industry will have a huge impact on the “tuna-dependent” islands including the Federated States of Micronesia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
Subtropical albacore tuna, tropical bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin are economically important in the western and central Pacific.
“I cannot imagine trying to displace the tuna from the people of the Marshall Islands - our livelihoods and our culture. It is difficult to comprehend,” said Bruce Bilimon, health minister of Marshall Islands.
Island leaders said the region will contend with the devastation of Pacific tuna stocks, while combatting sea level rise, a threat to water and food security, and extreme weather events resulting from climate change.
“Tuna moving away from us affects the security of my country. It will affect our livelihoods, our education, our environment – it’s a key source of revenue that sustains and contributes to the development and progress of my society and country," Bilimon said at COP26 in Glasgow.
He delivered a presentation titled: "Warming Ocean Threatens Tuna Dependent Pacific Countries and Territories” in the Moana Blue Pacific space.
Estimates suggest annual losses of an average of $90 million in fishing fees and reductions in government revenue, in all of the ten Pacific islands by up to 13 percent per year by 2050.
SPREP said these tuna losses will have serious consequences for governments and Pacific people, who depend on tuna revenue to support livelihoods and vital programs in key sectors such as education and health.
The losses are also expected to reduce the financial flexibility needed to assist communities to adapt to climate change.
Stronger climate ambitions are needed to help address the serious consequences that tuna losses due to climate change will have for governments and Pacific people.
“This is about working together, it’s not about this is my patch and that is your patch, and the brilliant thing about the Pacific is it is an example to others – the way the region is working together in fisheries," said Kay Harrison, Climate Change ambassador for New Zealand. "The Pacific Nauru Agreement has shown the power of Pacific leadership in developing economic benefits of fisheries."
Harrison noted that the tuna industry makes up 84 percent of the government revenue in Tokelau. "This climate change impact will be devastating for Tokelau. It’s the mitigation of climate change that we need to be stressing to everyone that is here in Glasgow- 1.5. We need 1.5,” he added.