The tuna effect

Tuna stocks that are under threat from climate change appear set to financially damage 10 Pacific nations.

But none more so than tiny Tokelau that could leave around 1500 citizens broke and destitute.

Sources have suggested that at the current rates of ocean warming the fish will decline around 20 per cent by 2050.

The distribution of subtropical albacore tuna, tropical bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin will also affect the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu that are dependent on the stocks.

Leaders of impacted nations have confirmed the threat during the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

New Zealand’s climate change ambassador, Kay Harrison, was gravely concerned for the future of one of the country’s dependencies.

Tuna fishing earns Tokelau six out of its every seven dollars off the territory’s three atolls.

Tuna catches
Skipjack tuna caught metres from Atafu’s reef in Tokelau in April 2018. Picture: Litara Reupena

“This climate change impact will be devastating for Tokelau,” she told the audience at the ‘Warming Ocean threatens tuna dependent Pacific countries and territories’ address in the Moana Blue Pacific space.

Ms Harrison remained optimistic from the region’s leadership with the Pacific Nauru agreement to better benefit fisheries economically.

Pacific nations have managed to stock fish at sustainable levels prior to global warming impacts.

Leaders in the Pacific are demanding that mitigation of the climate must stay under 1.5C degrees, in reference to the Paris climate agreement goal of restricting global temperatures.

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Marshall Islands minister for health and human services, Bruce Billimon, said displacing tuna catches around his country was unfathomable.

“Tuna moving away from us affects the security of my country,” Mr Billimon said.

“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.”

Annual losses could cost Pacific governments close to $US100 million.

That would in turn reduce economies on average by 13 per cent in less than three decades.

The projected losses will also hurt the ability of nations like the Marshall Islands to adapt to climate change.

“The Pacific is one of the regions first impacted by sea level rise, and if there is no peace then you can imagine what will be,” Mr Billimon said.

“As a global community, we see everyone as one.

“We must fight the challenge of climate change as one.”

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