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Disasters and Climate Change

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Living on the edge of land, coastal fishing communities have to often deal with major natural disasters. When at sea, fishers risk dangers of unpredictable weather. The vulnerability of small-scale fishers results not merely from such risks but also their marginal social and political state.

Natural disasters do not discriminate. They hit all who come in range. How people cope with their assault and how they recover from their destruction, though, is a completely different story. Social standing, financial viability, political and environmental conditions—they all determine the vulnerability and ability to recover.

Already under the threat of pollution, biodiversity loss and increasing competition for resources, climate change has further endangered them in both marine and inland fisheries. Natural disasters are becoming more frequent. They occur with increasing intensity and destructive force. This is exactly what climate scientists have been projecting.

Ockhi, a tropical deep depression in the Indian Ocean off southern India, intensified into a cyclonic storm on November 29, 2017. It savaged fishers out at sea over four days, killing more than 350, injuring many, destroying vessels and fishing gear.

The tsunami on December 26, 2004, followed the most powerful earthquake in 40 years underwater near Indonesia. It sent a 40-foot-high wall of water barrelling at high speed, crashing into the coasts rimming the Indian Ocean. Killing more than 250,000 in six countries. Fishers were the worst hit.

Climate change has reduced the viability of fishing operations across the board, especially hitting women, who have to pick after everybody else. Rising sea levels, the changing physical and chemical state of the marine waters, the resulting effects on marine species, increasing competition over scarce resources…

All efforts to mitigate climate change must be based on studying their social impacts. Managing these risks and adapting to them requires financial and technological transformation. Monitoring of the effects of climate change is as important as compensation from human-made disasters like pollution, oil spills with compensation. Human rights is the cornerstone of dealing with this challenge, demanding a focus on the most vulnerable.

Current Programmes

ICSF is undertaking a range of initiatives to highlight the social and political dimensions of disasters and climate change, particularly of Covid-19. It also draws attention to the impact of climate change on fisheries resources and on fishing communities and advocate for appropriate and socially-just adaptation and mitigation measures. In December 2020, Covid-19 had spread to over 200 countries and resulted in the deaths of over 1.3 million people. As the coronavirus remerged in second and third waves in many parts of the world, ICSF undertook case studies in four countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Mozambique – to document the impacts of the pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable small-scale fishing communities, particularly in the marine and inland capture fisheries value chain. While lockdowns and the restrictions on movement of people and goods disrupted fish production and supply chains, the economic slowdown and reduced incomes led to a decline in demand for aquatic foods. Small-scale fisheries contribute significantly to domestic food security and livelihoods, and this is especially true in the selected countries. In this context, the studies examined whether pandemic control measures reduced access to fish and aquatic foods for low-income and vulnerable populations. Covid-19 also impacted small-scale fishers and fish vendors’ access to domestic and international markets. In the countries that were able to provide social protection measures, the case studies analyze their effectiveness and inclusivity of fisher and fishworker families. Today, the Covid-19 case count is over 164 million and nearly 3.5 million people have lost their lives. While the four countries had witnessed relatively low rates of infection at the time of the studies, some are now experiencing a sharp rise in infections and fatalities. Thus, small-scale fisheries need support to adapt and recover from Covid-19, to protect lives and livelihoods and to enhance their contributions to food security.

Resources

Infographics video on SSF guidelines: Disaster risk and climate change

Small-scale fishing communities are often some of the most vulnerable communities to disaster risks and climate change. This short, animated video shows impacts on small-scale fisheries – and what can...

Covid response 2020: ICSF’s Newsletter on covid-19 emergency assistance to small-scale fishing communities in India

The World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March, 2020. Two weeks later, a nationwide lockdown was announced in India, to ensure consistency in the application and...

Report of the National Workshop on Small-scale Fisheries, Cyclone Ockhi and Disaster Risk Management By Ahana Lakshmi, ICSF, 2018

The National Workshop held from 29 to 30 May, 2018 at Thiruvananthapuram, India brought together 68 participants from India representing the fishing community, fishworker organisations, civil society organisations, governments, multilateral...

Seawalls, Groynes and Breakwaters: Their impacts on the Kerala’s beaches and small-scale fisheries: India Study: Contextualization of SSF Guidelines By D. Nandakumar and A.J.Vijayan, ICSF, 2015

This study examines how coastal engineering structures such as seawalls, groynes and breakwaters have had a long term impact on the coast and traditional small-scale fisheries in Kerala. https://www.icsf.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/930.ICSF020.pdf

The Sea of Change: Traditional fishworker’s perception of climate change Directed by Rita Banerjee and Produced by ICSF, 2014

Shot in Kakinada in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and in Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra, the film explores the perceptions of the traditional fishworkers to the...

Climate Change and Fisheries: Perspectives from Small-scale Fishing Communities in India on Measures to Protect Life and Livelihood

Through consultations with key fisheries-based stakeholders in four States of India, this study attempts to assess perceptions of fishing communities about the impact of climate change on their lives and...

Review of Literature for ICSF Study on “Climate Change and Fisheries: Perspectives from Small-scale Fishing Communities in India on Measures to Protect Life and Livelihood”

The review looks at the Climate Change scenario for India and the impacts of climate change on the fishery resources and the coastal community depending on fish for their livelihood...

International legal instruments relevant to fisheries and fishing communities: A handbook on Environmental pollution; Fishing vessels and safety at sea

The section on Environmental Pollution provides information on instruments relating to pollution of the marine environment by ships and land–based sources, and on climate change and the ozone layer. Included...

Report of workshop on emerging concerns of fishing communities: Issues of labour, trade, gender, disaster preparedness, biodiversity and responsible fisheries; Fortaleza, Brazil

The workshop was co-hosted by the NGO Instituto Terramar. The document gives a detailed report of the presentations and discussions transpired in the workshop. It is also worth noting that...

Post-Tsunami Rehabilitation of Fisheries Livelihoods: ICSF Information Dossier By ICSF 2005

This dossier puts together various articles and information that is likely to be of relevance to those engaged with rehabilitation of fisheries-based livelihoods in Tamil Nadu, the state in India...

State of the Climate in Asia 2023 by WMO, 2024

The WMO State of the Climate in Asia 2023, is the fourth edition of climate reports published annually for this region and has involved National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs),...

Disaster Management Reference Handbook (March 2024): Cambodia

Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and part of the Lower Mekong River region. Cambodia faces a high level...

Brainstorming Session on India’s Preparedness for Adapting to Climate Change in Marine Fisheries, 17-18 October 2023, Mahabalipuram by BOBP-IGO, 2023

Fisher-people are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change due to their vulnerable location, positioned as they are between the impacts from the landward and seaward sides. This...

The unjust climate: Measuring the impacts of climate change on rural poor, women and youth by FAO, 2024

Developing policies to foster inclusive rural transformation processes requires better evidence on how climate change is affecting the livelihoods and economic behaviours of vulnerable rural people, including women, youths and...

Changes from changing climate, RSN magazine No. 22. December 2023

This magazine is based on contributions from secretariats of regional fisheries management organizations, regional fisheries advisory bodies, permanent observers and related networks and partners, as well as colleagues from FAO...

National policy on mitigation and rehabilitation measures for people displaced by coastal and river erosion 2022, NDMA, 2022

Land erosion by seas, oceans and rivers not only causes loss of earth but also erodes away at human lives and livelihoods, especially by changing the landscape, biosphere, and plant...

Outcome of the first global stocktake, Revised advance version (FCCC/PA/CMA/2023/L.17)

Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement – Fifth session, United Arab Emirates, 30 November to 12 December 2023. Download

COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health

We, on the occasion of the first Health Day at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), express our grave concern about the negative impacts of climate change on health....

The sea and the city: From the eyes of Mumbai’s fishing community film by Lalitha Kamath and Gopal Dubey, 2023

What does it mean to live in the city and yet live amidst wetness? We explore this question through the experiences of Mumbai’s indigenous fishing community, the Kolis, that live...

Shoring up: Linking social protection and early warning systems for the fisheries sector, 22 June 2023

Small-scale fisheries (SSF) based in coastal communities around the world are on the front lines of climate change impacts, facing unprecedented increases in the frequency and severity of acute climate...

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