Coastal communities, especially the ones whose livelihoods depend on the sea, are one of the earliest to be affected by the process of climate change and any disasters it results in. Their resilience and adaptability when facing these crises may offer valuable insight into building approaches towards collective efforts, suggests a new study.
A team of researchers looked at 22 small-scale fisheries affected by stressors, in 20 countries to understand how they face climate change crises that heavily affect them, especially their livelihoods. These stressors included natural disasters, market collapse, weather fluctuations, oil spills, and more.
Using a new framework, the team measured response using three response pathways. The first of these is ‘adaptability’, which took into account preparation and planning or collective action. The other two were ‘reaction’ and ‘coping’, the latter considering the passive acceptance of consequences. The research determined the access of fishing communities and individual households to knowledge, assets, diversity and flexibility, governance and institutions, and natural capital.
Not only do small-scale fisheries employ 90 percent of the fisher-folks, but also provides for at least half the human consumption. “Millions of people are dependent on making a living in small-scale fisheries, and some of them are currently doing it better than others,” said senior author Larry Crowder, the Edward Ricketts Provostial Professor and professor of biology in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. “If we can identify the features that allow communities and individuals to be better prepared for those perturbations – in other words, to have an adaptive response – then we can try to build that capacity in communities that don’t have it.”
The observations of this study point out that rather than having fisher-folk specialise, allowing them to function as generalists as they historically were, enabled them to adapt better to diverse circumstances. They also concluded that assets at an individual level were not as important as assets at a community level. Moreover, flexibility and diversity played an important role in aiding adaptability.
The study is published in the Climatic Change journal.
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