Big Facts on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security


  • Fishery adaptation strategies will vary considerably across the globe—from changing locations to shifting the timing and species targeted—depending on the local impacts of climate change (Cochrane et al. 2009; Grafton 2009).
  • There is huge potential to expand aquaculture (raising of fish in captivity in the sea or freshwater) even in the face of climate change (Cochrane et al. 2009).
  • Aquatic species that do not migrate extensively and that have wide environmental tolerances can be used in aquaculture and targeted by capture fisheries to help adapt to new climatic conditions (FAO 2013 p. 93).
  • Improving the general resilience of fisheries and aquaculture systems will reduce their vulnerability to climate change. For example, biodiversity-rich fisheries are less sensitive to climate change than those that are overfished and have little biodiversity. Healthy coral reef and mangroves systems, for example, provide natural barriers to physical impacts such as storm surges. Communities that are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture have strong social systems and a portfolio of livelihood options that have higher adaptive capacities and lower sensitivities to change. Larger-scale production systems that have effective governance systems and high capital mobility tend to be more resilient to change than smaller-scale systems or those with weak governance systems (De Young et al. 2012 p. 9).
  • Technical innovation provides some adaptation options. Such innovations include: breeding aquaculture species that are tolerant of saline water to confront sea-level rise; development of storm-resistant fish farming systems (e.g. sturdier fish cages); and the widespread use of information technology to share weather and market information (De Young et al. 2012 p. 10).
  • Governance of fisheries affects the range of adaptation options available and will need to be flexible enough to accommodate changes in stock distribution and abundance. Governance aimed at supporting equitable and sustainable fisheries, that accommodates inherent uncertainty and that is based on an ecosystem approach, as currently advocated, is thought to generally improve the adaptive capacity of fisheries (Daw et al. 2009 p. 108).
  • Strategies that make the fishing system more sustainable and economically rewarding are essential to help small-scale fisheries adapt to climate change. Specific adaptation interventions should build on fishers’ current strategies for dealing with risk, shocks and change to avoid maladaptation. They should recognize places where climate change will benefit local fisheries as well as those places where climate change will have a negative impact (Badjeck et al. 2010).
  • An effective means to build resilience of ocean systems would be to tackle other stressors such as pollution, overfishing and trawling that are already degrading ecosystems and exacerbating vulnerability to climate change (Nellemann et al. 2008).

Examples of measures to adapt to climate impacts on fisheries

    Impact on fisheries Potential adaptation measures
    Reduced fisheries productivity and yields

    Access higher-value markets

    Increase effort or fishing power*

    Increased variability of yield

    Diversify livelihood portfolio

    Insurance schemes

    Precautionary management for resilient ecosystems

    Implementation of integrated and adaptive management

    Change in distribution of fisheries

    Private research and development and investments in technologies to predict migration routes and availability of commercial fish stocks*


    Reduced profitability

    Reduce costs to increase efficiency

    Diversify livelihoods

    Exit the fishery for other livelihoods/investments

    Increased vulnerability of coastal, riparian and floodplain communities and infrastructure to flooding, sea level and surges

    Hard defences*

    Managed retreat/accommodation

    Rehabilitation and disaster response

    Integrated coastal management

    Infrastructure provision (e.g. protecting harbours and landing sites)

    Early warning systems and education

    Post-disaster recovery

    Assisted migration

    Increased risks associated with fishing (e.g. safety at sea)

    Private insurance of capital equipment

    Adjustments in insurance markets

    Insurance underwriting

    Weather warning system

    Investment in improved vessel stability/safety

    Compensation for impacts

    Trade and market shocks

    Diversification of markets and products

    Information services for anticipation of price and market shocks

    Displacement of population leading to influx of new fishers

    Support for existing local management institutions


    Publicly available research and development

    * Adaptations to declining/variable yields that directly risk exacerbating overexploitation of fisheries by increasing fishing pressure or impacting habitats

    Source: Based on De Young et al. (2012 p. 11).

Examples of measures to adapt to climate impacts on aquaculture

    Impacts Adaptive measures
    Temperature rise above optimal range of tolerance

    Better feeds

    Selective breeding for higher temperature tolerance

    Increased growth rates as a result of temperature change; higher production

    Increase feed input and better management

    Eutrophication and upwelling; mortality of stock

    Better planning: farm/cage siting conforming to ecosystem carrying capacity

    Regular monitoring

    Increased virulence of dormant pathogens

    None; monitoring to prevent health risks

    Limitations on fishmeal and fish oil supplies/price

    Fishmeal and fish oil replacement

    New forms of feed management

    Shift to non-carnivorous species

    Coral reef destruction

    None, but shifting from harvesting to breeding of coral reef species may improve reef resilience by reducing fishing pressure and harmful fishing practices

    Saltwater intrusion

    Shift non-salt-tolerant species upstream (costly)

    Grow new salt-tolerant species in old facilities

    Loss of agricultural land

    Promote aquaculture to provide alternative livelihoods

    Capacity building and infrastructure

    Indirect influence on estuarine aquaculture through changes in brood stock and seed availability


    Impact on calcareous shell formation/deposition


    Limitations on water abstraction

    Improve efficacy of water usage

    Encourage non-consumptive water-use aquaculture, e.g. cage-based aquaculture and/or mariculture

    Water retention period reduced

    Use of fast-growing fish species

    Increase efficacy of water sharing with primary users e.g. irrigation of rice paddy

    Availability of wild seed stocks reduced/period changed

    Shift to artificially propagated seed (extra cost)

    Destruction of facilities; loss of stock; loss of business; large-scale escapes with the potential to affect biodiversity

    Encourage uptake of individual/cluster insurance

    Improve design to minimize mass escape

    Encourage use of indigenous species to minimize impacts on biodiversity.

    De Young et al. (2012 p. 11) after Cochrane et al. (2009).
Sources and further reading
  • Badjeck MC, Allison EH, Halls AS, Dulvy NK. 2010. Impacts of climate variability and change on fishery-based livelihoods. Marine Policy 34:375–383. (Available from
  • Cochrane K, De Young C, Soto D, Bahri T, eds. 2009. Climate change implications for fisheries and aquaculture: overview of current scientific knowledge. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper no. 530. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (Available from (Accessed on 5 November 2013)
  • De Young C, Soto D, Bahri T, Brown D. 2012. Building resilience for adaptation to climate change in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. In: Meybeck A, Lankoski J, Redfern S, Azzu N, Gitz V, eds. Building resilience for adaptation to climate change in the agriculture sector. Proceedings of a Joint FAO/OECD Workshop, 23–24 April 2012. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (Available from (Accessed on 5 November 2013)
  • Daw T, Adger WN, Brown K, Badjeck MC. 2009. Climate change and capture fisheries: potential impacts, adaptation and mitigation. In: Cochrane K, De Young C, Soto D, Bahri T, eds. 2009. Climate change implications for fisheries and aquaculture: overview of current scientific knowledge. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper no. 530. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (Available from
  • FAO. 2013. Climate-smart agriculture sourcebook. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (Available from (Accessed on 5 November 2013)
  • Grafton RQ. 2009. Adaptation to climate change in marine capture fisheries. Environmental Economics Research Hub Research Report No. 37. Canberra: Australian National University. (Available from pdf/EERH_RR37.pdf) (Accessed on 5 November 2013)
  • Nellemann C, Hain S, Alder J, eds. 2008. In dead water – merging of climate change with pollution, over-harvest and infestations in the world’s fishing grounds. Arendal, Norway: United Nations Environment Programme. (Available from