Case StudiesCase Study 3    August 20, 2018  English (United States) Español (España)
CS3 Description


Oceans cover 70% of our planet but their tremendous wealth of biodiversity and ecosystem services are not infinite. More than just a valuable source of food, oceans play a key role in regulating the global climate as they store over 15 times more carbon dioxide than the terrestrial biosphere and soils. Meanwhile, the rich variety of life in deep-sea habitats, such as sea mounts, hydrothermal vents, coldwater corals, etc., plays a major role in global fishery production and provides a valuable source of marine genetic resources. The oceans and coastal areas, however, face many threats from overfishing, destructive fishing practices, pollution and waste disposal, agricultural runoff, invasive alien species, habitat destruction, increasing shipping traffic (9-10% growth in annual average) and risks of oil and ship-sourced pollution (UNEP, 2010). Climate change will only make the situation worse.

Oceans will first suffer the effects of global warming. Potential changes in global climate will certainly affect mainly the primary production of the oceans starting with variations in temperature and salinity values but producing variations in current and water mass circulation, which, in time, will affect the climatic conditions in local and regional scales. Modifications in the phytoplankton initiate an upward cascade along the trophic chain that will be most visible in areas where phytoplankton blooms are the basis for important fisheries.

Marine biodiversity will significantly deteriorate in the next 20 years and lead to greater marine losses (UNEP, 2010). Marine capture fisheries have increased from 19 million tonnes in 1950 to about 80 million tonnes in the mid-1980s, oscillating since then around 85 million tonnes (Garcia and de Leiva Moreno, 2003; Pauly et al., 2005). The annual rate of increase of marine catches decreased to almost zero in the 1990s, indicating that, on average, the world oceans have reached their maximal production under the present fishing regime. The global proportion of overfished stocks has kept increasing for the last 25 years, even though the phenomenon may be slowing down.

Climatic modification effects in coastal fisheries could be much more intense. Coastal environment are the most energetic of all world environments as they have the largest gradient in the concerned variables (Perillo and Piccolo, in press). Therefore, any variability will be sensed along the chain at faster rate and will be more visible to the stakeholders.

Coastal zones are one of the most dynamic habitats on Earth subject to continuous impacts from different forcing factors which are constantly changing in strength and direction, consequently, coasts are seldom (if ever) in equilibrium (Perillo and Piccolo, in press). From a human perspective, population density on the world´s coast is estimated to double by 2050, with an increase of about 50 % between 2010 and 2050 (Syvistki et al., 2005).  Presently 24 out of 39 cities with more than 5 million inhabitants are located within 100 km of the coast. Twelve of them correspond to 75% of the world megacities with more than 10 million people (Nicholls et al., 2007). Thus, coastal environments are subject to greater anthropogenic influences than more oceanic regions. The impact of everyday expansion of urbanization and industrialization of the coastal areas are resulting in higher pollution and intense modifications to the coastal habitat. Many of these changes are permanent as they often cross a threshold which does not allow, for example, a return to the original conditions for coastal dynamics, primary productivity, or the trophic chain (MacCraken et al., 2009; Perillo and Piccolo, in press). These changes often have negative effects on human populations, particularly, for those on lower incomes that are dependent directly on the resources of the coastal system. Many of the local artisan fishermen are included within this sector of the population resulting in community problems.


At a length of 6.816 km (Diez, 2009), Argentina has one of the most extensive coastlines in Latin America and its capital Buenos Aires is one of the mentioned big cities located near the coast. Fisheries and artisanal fisheries are an important resource for coastal communities. The average total marine landings in Argentine ports is of the order of 1 million tons with a peak in 1997 of 1.35 million tons and a minimum in 2009 of 0.73 million tons. Although over the last 17 year an average of 0.13 million tons has been maintained for local coastal fisheries (MAGP, 2010), there have been notable declines over the last decade in some areas where the survival of artisanal fleets is difficult to sustain. The situation may be exacerbated further by predicted climatic changes for the future (Perillo and Piccolo, in press) affecting not only fishing activities but also communities living close to the coast. For example, preliminary studies show clearly that Argentine beaches are subjected to erosion, with some cases with coastal retreats of the order of 3-5 m per year (Pratolongo et al., 2006; Bustos et al., 2009). Coastal roads have had to be closed and many houses and public buildings are in danger of flooding and destruction by the storm surges. The main conclusions of the vulnerability report, with special emphasis on the Buenos Aires Province, from a project funded by the United Nations Environmental Programme (Perillo, 1997) indicates that  coastal retreat by sea level rise and erosion due to  climate change is likely to become much worse and have recommended a need for an integrated coastal management program to provide well advanced strategic measures from decision-makers and stakeholders to take to avoid any potential prejudicial conditions along the coast. Unfortunately, very little has been done since this report, apart from a few provincial laws that have not been enforced and minor advances by coastal counties operating individually. There is no national or even provincial integrated effort going on or expected in the short time.


The artisanal fisheries of the Bahia Blanca Estuary and the adjacent coast of Pehuen Co and Monte Hermoso involve over 1500 families from the localities of Ingeniero White, Punta Alta, Pehuen Co and Monte Hermoso. Even though the fishers complain that catch reduction is related to pollution, there are long-term monitoring data showing that contamination is unlikely. It is probably related to overfishing, both inside and outside the estuary, as well as changes in water and air temperature, and prolonged drought situations that are affecting the freshwater input into the estuary. Although these problems have all been predicted, decision makers only started to take action when the fisher community reacted by closing the deep harbors for commercial shipping which resulted in economic losses of over US $ 100 million. A fraction of this value could have been enough to resolve the situation well ahead of its occurrence (Pizarro et al., 2007; Piccolo et al., 2009).

IADO has recently been engaged in the EU project ECOMANAGE for the period 2006-2009 hosting a working group with the expertise and instrumental capability to develop a coastal management program for the region. A preliminary program for the coastal area of the Bahía Blanca Estuary has been developed and is being now in the process of requesting funding from the World Bank, major public and private organizations to reformulate and improve this coastal area.

Nevertheless, there are several issues that require immediate solutions as they are affecting local populations in the short term which are consequences of the advances in climatic changes or anthropogenic factors. There is a need to develop rational coastal management strategies for short, medium and large scales for the estuary and, in particular, for the coastal localities within a range of 100 km outside such as Pehuén Co and Monte Hermoso. Therefore, taking into account the specific situation of these communities in Bahia Blanca, there is considerable potential to improve governance of the fishery sector. Further to this, FAO statistics have demonstrated only limited growth rates (0-3%) for fisheries whilst, in contrast, aquaculture has been growing at around 7% per year from the 1950´s. At present, aquaculture in Argentina is relatively undeveloped with a total production in 2007 of around 3000 tons (HUhttp://www.fao.org/UH). However, the FAO (2008) does warn that the future scenarios for both fisheries and aquaculture are complex, as there is likely to be a substantial increase in both the costs of energy and fish feed affecting both activities in a mosaic of natural, social and economic contexts. Nonetheless, there has to be potential for compensating 1500 families at Bahia Blanca from losses in fisheries with an expansion of the aquaculture sector.


COMET-LA will explore strategies in collaboration with the families supported by the artisanal fishery to adapt this fishery to a more sustainable activity and, also to explore other activities that will utilize the skills of this community such as providing new production systems through aquaculture, or even considering touristic activities in the estuary and surrounding region of Bahia Blanca that utilize the boating skills and local knowledge of the community. Particular emphasis will be placed on how this community can adapt to the effects of climate change.


Documents Case Study 3

Contact us:
Prof. Maria del Mar Delgado 

Directora del Secretariado para la Formación de Investigadores
Universidad de Córdoba





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