UN climate summit in Egypt scheduled to start on November 6. A piece by Sally Campbell.
We now have the science to clearly show the planet is warming, resulting in bigger and longer lasting droughts and sudden raging storms and flooding, both of which we are reading about even today. So, what does that mean for ecosystems and communities? Linked to all this we need to look at sustainable food production, especially in the marine environment.
In the north of Kenya where the worst drought in decades is forcing people to migrate in search of an easier life. Susan Akal and her children decided to leave their home in April. She didn’t know then that they would end up walking around 250km to find refuge. “When the drought came, everyone had to fend for themselves,” she told reporters from Unearthed and gal-dem. “Our friends and neighbours moved out of the country to find aid, but some remained and who knows what their next move will be? I feel as though my children and I would be living an awful life, if I remained back home. We would’ve ended up like our livestock.” She eventually settled, along with other displaced people, on the shores of Lake Turkana.
A brutal drought in the Horn of Africa has brought Somalia to the brink of the world’s first official famine in a decade. More than a million Somalis have been displaced after four years of failed rainy seasons, in the longest dry spell in 40 years. The UN’s refugee agency reports that the country is expecting another dry year, exacerbated by climate change. The government and international aid agencies are now sounding the alarm that the situation is dire, including pleading with UK officials to send aid. There are horrendous stories of mothers walking for days with their children to reach camps in the hope of food, and often having to witness their children dying of starvation on the way. Ongoing conflict between the government and Al Shabaab militants is forcing still more people from their homes.
It is a depressingly familiar story, being played out at an awful scale. Historically the world’s very poorest countries have contributed least to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, yet are the most exposed to the impacts of climate change – Somalia is rated the second most vulnerable country in the world, and now a climate disaster is on its way to becoming a humanitarian catastrophe. And there’s little help on the way – the UN notes that it has received less than a third of the $9.5m it urgently requested in June.
Nigeria is reeling from the impact of large scale flooding that has left 600 people dead, over 1,500 injured and 1.4 million displaced. In some areas, the floodwaters have risen as high as the rooftops. The damage to farmland is also extensive, sparking fears about food insecurity and costs. Officials said that 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states are affected, and warned that it could spread cholera and threaten natural gas exports. The disaster was caused by extreme rainfall and waters released from a dam in Cameroon. The country’s national policy on climate change, published two years ago, states that flooding has increased in recent years and that climate change is expected “to increase the frequency and intensity of severe weather events.” It also warns that many states in Nigeria lack the infrastructure necessary to respond adequately to such climate change events.
Torrential monsoon rains triggered the most severe flooding in Pakistan’s recent history, washing away villages and leaving almost 10 million children in need of immediate, lifesaving support, and at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition. This is due to the combined effects of heavier monsoons and swollen rivers from increased melting of Himalayan glaciers. These are climate change in action, however much the climate change deniers tell you differently.
Hundreds of thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, while many public health facilities, water systems and schools have been destroyed or damaged. As the floodwaters have receded, the crisis has become an acute child survival crisis. Frail, hungry, children are fighting a losing battle against severe acute malnutrition, diarrhoea, malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, acute respiratory infections, and painful skin conditions. As well as physical ailments, the longer the crisis continues, the greater the risk to children’s mental health.
Across the world, the climate crisis is forcing people to leave their communities. It is common for people to settle within their countries, rather than go abroad. At the end of 2021, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 5.9m people around the world were internally displaced as a result of weather-related disasters. These included floods, wildfires and droughts, as well as non-climate-related events such as earthquakes.
COP27 is now one week away, and the debate and loss and damage – on who bears the weight of financial responsibility for the impacts of climate change – is expected to dominate. Climate migration like this is just one example of the stark costs already being felt by people in the global south. This whole discussion is about complexity as everything affects everything. We know temperatures are rising, seas are warming, creating more rain, glaciers melting. All relate to climate change and the life systems on our planet.
‘No credible pathway’
There is “no credible pathway” to keep the rise in global temperatures below the key mark of 1.5 degrees, according to a new UN report, which also found that progress on cutting emissions has so far been “woefully inadequate”. We must all try much harder and insist on more clean, green energy. How can we change our lifestyles? Keeping global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees is seen as a key way to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change. Already, with global temperatures around 1 degree above pre-industrial levels, many countries have been hit with devastating weather events and severe heat-waves.
We can but hope that the UK Prime Minister decides he can make time to attend this important COP27 meeting and not be “too busy”. He must be in the forefront of the UK’s climate change reversal projects. At least he has put paid to “fracking” in England. Now he also needs to stop giving our money to Drax Power Station which receives over £2M a day in subsidies; money that should be spent on renewables and solar. Drax has been cutting down vast swathes of old growth forests in BC and US for wood chipping plants, damaging vast acreage and have endangered the health of poor and majority black communities in the US. These live in the shadow of Drax’s facility in Gloster, Mississippi, where wood pellets destined for the UK’s biggest biomass power plant are produced.
The company has faced multiple fines in the southern states of the US for exceeding emissions limits of dangerous chemicals called volatile organic compounds. Drax recently paid $3.2m to settle air pollution complaints relating to its facility in Louisiana – having previously paid $2.5m for similar claims in Mississippi. Drax power station currently generates up to 7% of UK power demand so we need to replace Drax by increasing green technology, insulation of homes, renewable energy. And of course, changing how we live our lives so we use less energy in food production, clothes, oil products etc.
What about the oceans?
Some good news. In September 2022 in voiceforarran.com I wrote about the unintended consequences and deaths of inshore shellfish along the coast of NE England, after dredging and dumping of waste from the Tees for the new freeport. DEFRA and the government said it was due to a plankton bloom (in November 2021 cold ocean etc). Now PD Ports, the Environment Agency, and a Whitby fishing association have given evidence to MPs about the mass sea deaths.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee held a session on October 25th in parliament to hear from witnesses about the crustacean deaths. Committee chair Conservative Sir Robert Goodwill, who is the MP for Scarborough and Whitby, branded the situation “disturbing” when he announced the probe. The first sightings of dead and twitching crustaceans were in October 2021, however, just last month starfish, crabs, shellfish and hundreds of razor clams were spotted on the beach between Marske and Saltburn. The livelihoods of fishermen along the Teesside and North Yorkshire coast have also been affected by significantly smaller catches. The BBC 30-minute programme, We Are England: Trouble at Sea, follows the local community – including Whitby fishermen – as they deal with the fallout from the ecological disaster and try to find answers through recent academic research and results. Beachgoers have told of their shock as hundreds more dead crustaceans and marine life washed up on the North East coastline.
Areas of the Teesside beach between Marske and Saltburn were awash with dead shellfish, from razor clams and crabs to lobster and mussels. It was on a visit to the beach at Marske in September 2022 which led a local photographer to sound the alarm on social media about how bad the current situation is. She posted several worrying images of dead marine life trapped among seaweed alongside a video showing the vast scale of the affected area. Now a wider independent research project is showing that there are damaging chemicals in the dumped waste from the Tees and further work is to be done. How important it is to look at cumulative impacts of waste in the inshore waters. Creeling is a sustainable fishery and an important source of local protein for the long term. Destroying local livelihoods and sustainable fisheries is not where the UK should be heading. We have the same problem in Scotland with cumulative impacts of salmon farming and no government management strategy of bottom trawling and dredging fisheries. Reaching positive sustainable fisheries is vital for local food and local employment in our coastal communities.
But not all is dandy. A worrying development for Antarctica
Local food for local communities?
Fishing companies are hoping to “double” their catches of krill — tiny animals that sustain the Antarctic Ocean — to feed the fish farming industry. Current levels of krill fishing are worrying scientists and environmentalists. They fear impacts on penguins, seals, whales and seabirds. Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are small shrimps, just a few centimetres long. They are a fundamental part of the Antarctic environment, providing food for many other marine animals.
An international investigation has also discovered that current levels of krill fishing are worrying scientists and environmentalists. Krill are increasingly being fished by multinational companies to supply food for farmed fish in Scotland and around the world. A rich source of protein, they are also marketed as pet food and as human health supplements. In Uruguay and the southern tip of Chile close to the Antarctic the companies that are fishing krill and the scientists who are studying them give opinions. There is a giant warehouse of Aker Biomarine piled high with large bags of krill to be sold to fish farming companies and pet food manufacturers.
Krill fishing companies are convinced that their businesses can and will grow. The Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK), which brings together eight Norwegian, Chinese, Chilean and South Korean firms, is hoping to be allowed to catch more krill. ARK’s executive officer, Javier Arata, said that he expected the krill quota to increase from the current 620,000 tonnes a year. He argued that it could go much higher without harming populations of predators such as penguins and whales. He also suggested that an improved monitoring system would identify years when krill were abundant and areas where they could be more intensively fished. Better monitoring could also limit catches when stocks were low. Note the title…Responsible Krill Harvesting
The Antarctic krill fishery is managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which involves 37 countries. It is part of the international Antarctic Treaty System, formed in 1961 to protect the continent and its surrounding seas. CCAMLR set the 620,000-tonne “trigger” limit on krill fishing in 1991, about one per cent of the estimated total of 62m tonnes of krill. So far, the limit has never been reached, although catches have been increasing in the last two decades, reaching a record high of 451,000 tons in 2020. There are currently 12 large krill fishing vessels operating in Antarctica, belonging to seven companies from five countries. Norway and China are by far the biggest fishers, followed by Chile, South Korea and Ukraine. In July 2022 a visit was made to Montevideo, Uruguay, to see the main logistics centre of Aker Biomarine, which manages about 65 per cent of the world’s Antarctic krill production. It is part of the Norwegian Aker group headed by the billionaire, Kjell Inge Røkke. This report from The Ferrett, is depressing as we already know there are problems in the ecosystem food chains in Antarctica. Independent reporting of cumulative impacts in the marine environment is so important. Otherwise suddenly we find it is too late and ecosystems are trashed beyond viability. We see it with illegal fishing by multinationals off west Africa. Where is the ‘Precautionary Principle’ in all this I ask myself? This style of fishing with long food chains, huge carbon footprints, including to markets when fish are ready, has to change
Loads of meal produced with krill arrive at Aker’s warehouse after being processed on board vessels trawling the seas around Antarctica. From the warehouse, shipments are exported every day all over the world. “We have three fishing vessels operating in Antarctica and we have one vessel that is in charge of the transport — the Antarctic Provider. It comes to Montevideo port roughly every 45-60 days,” said Gian Franco Guerrieri, sales manager for Aker Biomarine Most of the one tonne bags stacked in hundreds of piles in the warehouse are destined to feed farmed fish, while some will be used for pet food. In Houston, Texas, Aker also adds krill oil to Omega 3 pills supposed to improve human health. “Eighty per cent of our catch and production on board goes to aquaculture and pet food, but most of it is aquaculture,” said Aker’s aquaculture specialist, Ragnhild Dragøy. “We sell all over the world and we sell everything we produce. We have markets in Norway, in Chile, in Asia, in Australia, in the US.” Just consider for a moment the carbon footprint of these journeys, hardly a sustainable industry !
In recent years interest in Antarctic krill from the fish farming industry has risen as companies search for new sources of protein to replace feed ingredients made from wild fish. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, fish farming is the fastest-growing food industry. It had a global output of 87.5m tonnes in 2020, and was projected to reach 106m tonnes by 2030. But such growth can cause the overfishing of species used to produce fish meal and oil to feed carnivorous farmed fish such as salmon, trout or sea bream. “How can we reduce our dependence on marine resources while increasing the amount of farmed fish?” asked Anders Østergaard, sustainability specialist for BioMar, a leading fish feed company that uses Aker Biomarine krill in some products.
“There will be more and more different alternative raw materials for fish feed, and that is due to the fact that we cannot rely on just a few sources of raw materials,” he said. “Especially as marine resources are scarce, limited”. Studies from Aker Biomarine claim that krill meal can to some extent replace fishmeal and make more efficient use of other protein ingredients, such as insects or soya, particularly for salmon, trout, shrimp and sea bass farms. “As a fish feed producer we are looking for alternatives to several ingredients that we are using, including fishmeal and fish oil,” said Robert Tillner, product and research manager for the fish feed company, Aller Aqua. “Krill is one of the ingredients we are also using,” he added. “Mostly in our salmonids feed, for both trout and salmon. That is where we use it”. Aker Biomarine manages about 65 per cent of the world’s Antarctic krill production.
Campaign group Changing Markets argues that krill fishing is depriving penguins, whales and seals of vital nourishment. There is a real problem with sustainable certification as cumulative impacts are hardly considered, even although a “sustainable certification” all sounds good to the consumer! So, it is vital that COP27 is a success with binding agreements on climate actions to not go beyond the minimum temperature increase targets and to manage all parts of the environment for sustainable futures and support for communities most affected. Real, positive actions NOW please politicians!
Changing Markets Foundation. (August 2022) Campaign for Changing Markets. Report: Krill, Baby, Krill: The corporations profiting from plundering Antarctica
Greenpeace (2022) Unearthed
The Ferret Media Ltd (19/10/2022) Subject: Antarctic krill fishing boosted by fish farming. Latest Full Text Story Alert from The Ferret
With thanks to Greenpeace, Tees Valley Monitor and The Ferret.
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