Aquaculture North America

Impact of climate crisis on fish farmers worse than pandemic’s

May 10, 2022
By Liza Mayer

Economic losses from the climate crisis are worse than the impact of the pandemic, say fish farmers PHOTO: © victor lazarev / Adobe Stock

As distressing as the pandemic is, economic losses from the climate crisis are worse, according to a survey of seafood farmers around the world.

Almost all (92 percent) of 585 seafood farmers surveyed reported being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the same time 83 percent said their businesses were hit harder by human-induced environmental stressors. These include low oxygen (hypoxia)  in estuaries and coastal waters, pollution, harmful algae, eutrophication and salinity changes – all known to be induced by human activity.

Fish farmers from China, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Egypt, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Tunisia comprised about 70 percent of the respondents.

The researchers also sought to find out the “resilience power” of various aquaculture farming systems, their recovery and adaptability to shocks. 


They found that extensive aquaculture, whether sea-based or land-based (ponds), saw the highest economic losses compared to other farmers practicing other forms of aquaculture. Farmers that use sea-based intensive aquaculture with integrated multitrophic aquaculture (IMTA) component showed more resilience to multiple stressors by providing different market options under the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It seems that socio-ecological systems were more able to cope with COVID-19 than with climate-related shocks,” says researcher Maria Christina Mangano. “It was something that did not surprise us, but it needs further investigation. There are more questions to explore with regards the climate-related vulnerability of farming systems.”

She says policies that look into climate-change-stressors and pandemic-related concerns collectively will maximize the long-term resilience of the aquaculture sector.

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