Who Cares About Sardines?

By Snaliah Mahal

SARDINES and the future? Really? A future with no sardines. So many things have been taken for granted over the years, but with the impacts of climate change already being felt by Saint Lucia and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), even the seemingly ‘insignificant’ sardines are important.

Roasted sardines and climate change, one would ask: What do they have in common? Nothing.Everything.

In islands like Saint Lucia and others in the Caribbean, South Pacific and Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS) regions, fish form an essential part of the diets of many. What link, if any, does this have with climate change?

Sardines are a great food source, with very high nutritional content. In small island countries, 50% of animal protein comes from fisheries and aquaculture; and climate change will affect the availability, stability, access and utilization of all aquatic products. Some 200 million livelihoods are supported by worldwide fisheries (Cochrane, K. et al (eds). 2009). Can we continue to ignore the implications for our fisheries sector?

Can island people imagine living and not being able to enjoy those delicious fish recipes? Sardines, green fig and saltfish, fish broth, roasted fish, fish in garlic sauce or creole sauce, fried fish, lobster, fish fillet, crab, shrimp, conch, red snapper, flying fish, bake and shark, fish eggs — the list is extensive. Many of us may find it quite hard to imagine what life would be like without a readily-available supply of fish.

SIDS and other developing countries face many obstacles on the path to attaining holistic development. Coupled with overfishing, climate change may put even more strain on an already vulnerable sector. When one adds the additional obstacle of climate change impacts on the fisheries sector, then, how this affects poverty levels, employment, and food security becomes a great concern.

In a publication (The Economics of Adapting Fisheries to Climate Change) by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2010, the uncertainty of when impacts on fisheries will occur, the kind of changes expected and the extent of the impacts on global fish stocks are highlighted. This is a cause for concern for economies as small as ours, which are very susceptible to external shocks.

So, while the 23rd Conference of the Parties in Germany this November will not have our sardines on the agenda, the issue of support will certainly be discussed; that is, finance, capacity building and technology transfer to assist us, as SIDS, in putting measures in place to address the adverse effects of climate change on our various sectors, not the least of which is the fisheries sector.

So just imagine a world with less sardines or NO sardines. NO FISH!! It’s about livelihoods. It’s about employment. It’s about food security. It is about our culture.

Are sardines still not important?

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