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Climate Change Resilience

25 March 2024, Funafuti, Tuvalu – The preliminary findings of a Climate Impact, Vulnerability, and Risk Assessment (CIVRA) study on Tuvalu’s food security – namely fisheries and agriculture – were presented to representatives from the respective sectors this afternoon during the first day of a series of workshops to be held over the next three days in Funafuti. 

The CIVRA is a major component of the Tuvalu National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Project, a three year, USD $3 million project tasked with the development of a medium to long-term national adaptation plan that consolidates adaptation priorities for six key sectors – Water, Agriculture, Fisheries, Health, Disaster, and Coastal Protection. 

Fish is the major source of protein for the people of Tuvalu, and fisheries is one of Tuvalu’s main industries, with fisheries revenue making up 53.4% of the total Government revenue. The CIVRA study revealed that the dominant climate hazard affecting fisheries in Tuvalu are sea surface temperatures (SST) and marine heatwaves. 

The average SST in Tuvalu ranges from 28.6 C to 29.5 C South to North, with temperatures becoming warmer than normal during El Niño events and cooler than normal during La Niña. 

“Some recent studies are suggesting that an increase in SST will mean changes to fish movement , potentially causing them to move away from Tuvalu’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” said Dr Fahim Tonmoy of Deloitte, who partnered with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to conduct the CIVRA study. 

“Future projections for Tuvalu under high emissions estimate a 23.4% reduction in purse-seine catch, which will result in a 12.6% decrease in total Government revenue. However, under medium emissions, the catch is projected to increase by 3.4%,” he added. 

In addition to SST, ocean acidification and marine heatwaves were also identified as significant hazards, with ocean acidification impacting the biodiversity and health of ocean ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of fisheries, and heatwaves affecting infrastructure and workforce. 

While the current risks to marine fisheries and coastal fisheries are Minor to Moderate, predictions show that these will significantly increase to Moderate in 2030 under both low and high emissions scenario, and to Major in 2050 under a Low Emissions Scenario – should the world take a path of reduced emissions, and Extreme under a High Emissions Scenario.

According to the latest Tuvalu Census in 2017, agriculture continued to be the largest sector in the country’s economy. Majority of Tuvaluans are involved in subsistence agriculture across all islands, producing crops such as taro, coconut, banana, pulaka, sweet potatoes, and pawpaw, and livestock such as pigs, and chickens. 

The dominant climate hazards for agriculture are water availability and water quality. Future projections point to an increase in the number of days with extreme rainfall, as well as an increase in frequency of extreme droughts. 

In Tuvalu, water scarcity and extreme rainfall are affecting crops and the workforce.  Coastal erosion and flooding are destroying coconut plantations which are the main export commodity of Tuvalu. Root crops such as taro and pulaka are affected by saline groundwater intrusion and storm surges. Main crop staples are predominately salt-sensitive, while resilient crops during periods of long drought wilted and died or became inedible. Invasive species and pests that affect crops also increased.

Saline intrusion due to sea level rise is identified as already being a Major risk, with 60% of pulaka pits  destroyed during TC Pam in 2015 and the remaining 40% highly sensitive to sea level rise and will continue into 2030 and 2050. 

The increase in temperature currently poses a Moderate risk to livestock but will upgrade to a Major risk in 2030 and 2050. 

Discussions between representatives from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Fisheries and the CSIRO-Deloitte team were held after the findings were presented, which provided an opportunity for initial feedback and additional information which may have been missing from, or would prove to be helpful to, the current findings to be shared. The feedback will then be used to compile the final CIVRA which will inform the development of the Tuvalu NAP. 

The Tuvalu NAP Stakeholder Workshop is being held at the Tomasi Puapua Convention Centre in Funafuti from 25 – 27 March 2024. 

For more information, please contact Ms. Filomena Nelson at [email protected]