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Asia - Sink or Swim: Asia's marine fisheries at risk of collapse, leading scientists warn

HONG KONG SAR - Media OutReach - 3 November 2021 - The combined impacts of climate change and overfishing mean Asia's fisheries are at risk of collapse in the coming decades, according to new research released today.

The report Sink or Swim: The future of fisheries in the East and South China Sea shows that growing demand for fish-based feed in the aquaculture industry is an emerging driver of fisheries overexploitation in the East and South China Seas.

Under a severe climate change trajectory, which indicates a 2˚C warming by 2050, the South China Sea is likely to experience significant declines in key commercial fish and invertebrate species, placing many regional fishing economies at risk of devastating failure.

Scientists call for immediate action to reduce fishing effort in the next ten years in order to prevent irreparable damage to Asia's key oceans. As the two most important fishing areas in the West Pacific in terms of productivity and economic value, the East and South China Seas have a combined trade valued at approximately US$100 billion.

Parts of these marine areas have experienced warming ten times the global average, whilst subject to decades of overfishing. Many commercially important species, such as chub mackerel or large yellow croakers, are currently classified as overexploited.

The research, conducted by University of British Columbia (UBC) fisheries scientists and ADM Capital Foundation, highlights key threats and risks of economic losses under a range of climate change and fisheries management scenarios.

The fisheries team applied advanced ecosystem modelling techniques to project the impacts of climate change and overfishing on fish populations and the revenues generated by the fisheries of the East and South China Seas.

"Under certain climate change scenarios, seafood species that are mainstays of the Hong Kong seafood market, such as groupers and threadfin breams, could be reduced to a fraction of their present population by the end of the century – if not driven completely to extinction," explained Dr. Rashid Sumaila, Professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at UBC.

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