Available evidence across various adaptation options

In order to advance the analysis of adaptation, it is useful to consider the various current and recommended adaptation options in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, and collate information on their costs and benefits. To do this, it is necessary to have a typology of adaptation options. Several generic typologies have been developed (in the third and fourth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]) as well in other literature. These often include the categorization of options by type, for example:

  • Technical options. These primarily include technical or engineered design, but can include green and ecosystem-based adaptation.
  • Non-technical options, including:
  • institutional and capacity building;
  • information, research and behavioural change;
  • non-technical options or measures;
  • financial and market-based options (including insurance);
  • policy and legislative.

They also include typologies that split adaptation by approach, for example, options that:

  • reduce risks;
  • reduce exposure;
  • reduce vulnerability;
  • spread risks;
  • live with the risks.

Specific typologies have also emerged for adaptation in the fisheries sector. The OECD (2010) distinguished three fundamental strategies to reduce the actual impacts of climate change on fisheries: (i) promoting resilience in order to reduce system sensitivities; (ii) increasing adaptation capacity and effectiveness of adaptation responses; and (iii) improving the adaptation-planning processes.

Poulain, Himes-Cornell and Shelton (2018) used a further categorization as part of a suggested FAO fisheries and aquaculture adaptation toolbox (Tables 1 and 2), which split adaptation into three non-mutually exclusive areas as follows:

  1. Institutional adaptation: Interventions, mainly on the part of public bodies, that address legal, policy, management and institutional issues including public investments and incentives; they include the planning, development and management of fisheries and aquaculture in a manner that addresses the dynamic nature of natural systems and societal needs in the face of climate change, following the principles of the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) or the ecosystem approach to aquaculture (EAA).
  2. Livelihood adaptation: Interventions that include a mix of public and private activities, within or among sectors, most commonly through diversification strategies within or outside the sector to reduce vulnerability.
  3. Risk reduction and management for resilience: Interventions that include a mix of public and private activities to promote early warning and information systems, improve risk reduction (prevention and preparedness) strategies and enhance response to shocks.

The three categories have been used as the framing for this publication. Tables 1 and 2 provide selected examples of adaptations.


Within sector

Diversification of markets/fish products, access high-value markets, support diversification of citizens’ demands and preferences

Improvement or change in post-harvest techniques/practices and storage

Improvement of product quality: eco-labelling, reduction of post-harvest losses, value addition

Flexibility to enable seasonal migration (e.g. following stock migration)

Diversification of patterns of fishing activities with respect to the species fished, location of fishing grounds and gear used to enable greater flexibility

Private investment in adapting fishing operations, and private research and development and investments in technologies, e.g. to predict migration routes and availability of commercial fish stocks

Adaptation-oriented microfinance

Between sectors

Livelihood diversification (e.g. switching among rice farming, tree crop farming and fishing in response to seasonal and inter-annual variations in fish availability)

Exit strategies for fishers to leave fishing


Risk pooling and transfer

Risk insurance

Personal savings

Social protection and safety nets

Improvement in financial security

Early warning

Extreme weather and flow forecasting

Early warning communication and response systems (e.g. food safety, approaching storms)

Monitoring of climate change trends, threats and opportunities (e.g. monitoring of new and more abundant species)

Risk reduction

Risk assessment to identify risk points

Safety at sea and vessel stability

Reinforced barriers to provide a natural first line of protection from storm surges and flooding

Climate-resilient infrastructure (e.g. protecting harbours and landing sites)

Addressing underlying poverty and food insecurity problems

Preparedness and response

Building back better and post-disaster recovery

Rehabilitation of ecosystems

Table 2

Types and selected examples of adaptation tools in aquaculture

Public policies
Mainstreaming of aquaculture into national and regional adaptation and development plans National/regional
More effective sharing of and access to water and coastal space National/watershed
Investments in R&D on aquaculture adaptation technologies; new species, breeding for species tolerant to specific, or a combination of, stressors (disease, temperature, salinity, acidification, etc.) National, regional, international
Investments to facilitate the movement and marketing of farm products and supply inputs National, regional, international
Appropriate incentives for sustainable and resilient aquaculture, including taxes and subsidies National, international,
Attention to poverty and food insecurity within aquaculture systems
Legal frameworks
Property rights, land tenure and access to water National
Standards and certification for production and for resistant facilities National
Institutional frameworks
Strengthening cross-sectoral and inter-institutional cooperation and coordination Zone/national/regional
Mainstreaming of adaptation in food safety assurance and control National
Management and planning
Climate change mainstreamed into integrated coastal zone management National/watershed/regional
Community based adaptation Site and community levels
Aquatic protected areas (marine and freshwater) and/or green infrastructure (see ecosystem approach [EAA] to aquaculture guidelines)1 National/regional
Mainstreaming of climate change into aquaculture area management under the EAA Zone/watershed/national
Better management practices including adaptation and mitigation, i.e. better feed and feed management, water quality maintenance, use of higher-quality seed Site level/zone/management area
Mainstreaming of climate change into spatial planning and management for risk-based zoning and siting Site level/zone/management area
Integration of climate change in carrying capacity considerations (production, environmental and social) Site level/zone/management area
Within sector
Development and promotion of new, more-resilient farming systems and technologies Site level/national
Genetic diversification and protection of biodiversity National
Integration of climate change in microfinance National
Aquaculture diversification All
More resistant strains Site level
More resistant and/or resilient hatcheries and hatchery-produced seed Zone/national
Value addition National, regional, international
Better market access; new markets for new species and products Zone, national regional
Shift to non-carnivore species Site level
Fishmeal and fish oil replacement Site level/national
Empowering farmers and women’s organizations Management area/national
Integrated farming systems and circular economy Site level/management area
Between sectors
Diversification of livelihoods Site level/national
Risk pooling and transfer
Social safety nets National
Social protection National
Aquaculture insurance National
Early warning
Integrated monitoring (relevant aquaculture area), information analysis, communication and early warning Farm, watershed, zone
Development of national and local vulnerability maps and raising awareness of risks Subnational/national
Scientific and local knowledge synthesized; logistics to disseminate information All
A national risk communication system that provides reliable early warning to hazards National
Meteorological infrastructure and system that can effectively support crop and farm assets insurance (particularly weather- indexed or parametric insurance) National
Risk reduction
Stronger farming structures (e.g. net pens) and more-resilient designs (e.g. deeper ponds) Site level/national
Enabling adaptive movement between mariculture and inland aquaculture (recirculation aquaculture systems, aquaponics) Site level/national
Better management and biosecurity frameworks Site level/zone/farm clusters
Preparedness and response
Contingency for emergency management, early harvest and/or relocation National
Rehabilitation and building back better plans National/international
Relief programmes, such as work-for-food and “work in recon­struction and rehabilitation projects”, that offer temporary jobs for famers and farm workers International/national
Emergency assistance to avoid additional damage and loss from climate-related disasters – could include fish feed to avoid massive mortality of stocks National

1 FA0, 2010.