There is strong consensus in the international scientific community that the world's climate will change at an increasing rate. The risks associated with these changes are particularly important for societies dependent on resources that are sensitive to variability in climate, for instance fisheries. There is widespread concern amongst rural development programmes, and donor, government and NGO-funded projects on the vulnerability of coastal livelihood systems to climate change.
The concept of vulnerability assessments has recently been introduced, but these have not yet been conducted for small-scale fisheries in low-income countries. Given the increasing awareness of the contributions fisheries make to the regional and national economies of some of the world's poorest countries, this represents a significant knowledge gap.
The project aimed to provide an understanding of the relationships between the impacts of climate change and livelihood vulnerability of poor fishing communities, in order to identify the areas and people that are likely to be most vulnerable to climate-induced changes in fisheries.
The project first conducted a literature review, in order to identify the range of mechanisms through which climate change may influence fisheries. A synthesis of identified pathways was prepared, which also incorporated how systems are likely to respond to future climate change. A global mapping of climate change vulnerability was then undertaken. Finally, three case studies for different fishery types were conducted, in order to illustrate the type of research that could help inform policy interventions to develop the adaptive capacity of fishers to deal with future climate change, and to support mitigation strategies.
From these research activities, knowledge gaps and suggested research needs were identified.
This project has provided a synthesis of information on the relationship between climate change, vulnerability and adaptation of poor fisherfolk, which can be used to inform policy and future research for the effective prioritisation of appropriate development interventions.
It has provided a review of current knowledge on the likely impact of climate change on fish stocks and fishery habitats important to poor people. The series of overlay maps identify the geographical areas that are vulnerable to climate change, and where fisherfolk living in poverty are concentrated. The analysis showed that the fisheries sectors and fishers in African countries were generally those most vulnerable to climate change.
Through identifying the key gaps in current knowledge (see Research messages) about the vulnerability of poor fishers to climate changes, it has provided the outline for a research agenda to enable fisheries agencies and other stakeholders to respond to the challenges posed by rapid climate change.