What drives the adoption of adaptation strategies in marine fishing communities?

Malakar, K., T. Mishra, and A. Patwardhan. 2018. A framework to investigate drivers of adaptation decisions in marine fishing: Evidence from urban, semi-urban and rural communities. Science of the Total Environment. 637-637: 758-770. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.429


Globally, fishing communities face increasing threats to their traditional livelihoods from human-induced environmental and climate stressors, and must adapt to decreasing harvest levels and changing fish communities. In this paper Malakar et al. (2018) examine the understudied subject of adaptation to these changing conditions, and decision-making in fishing communities. The study is centered on several fishing communities in Maharashtra, India (Figure 1) but offer some key takeaways that may be applied to other similar regions.


Figure 1. Location of fishing communities included in this study.

Ocean systems face a barrage of threats that include pollution, acidification, and changing temperatures. Together these threats have resulted in declining fish catch rates and threaten the livelihoods of people traditionally dependent on harvesting marine fish populations. In developing countries such as India, adoption of fishing practices that help sustain this livelihood is especially vital because of the economic importance of the industry to the country. In particular, the substandard living conditions fishing communities often face cannot deteriorate any further from declining fish catch rates without devastating these already vulnerable communities.

Using information from the literature, household surveys, and focus group discussions, Malakar et al. (2018) examined factors that contribute to adoption of adaptation strategies such as improved fishing gear. Additionally, they compared these factors (e.g., level of education) among rural, semi-urban, and urban populations to help inform a framework that can be used to develop adaptation policies catered to each type of community.

In all three community-types using multiple types of nets to maximize catch was the most popular adaptation strategy. However, the lowest use percentage of all adaptation strategies listed (e.g., working longer hours) was observed in the semi-urban community. Better educated urban fishers were well aware of the increased climate variability and its impacts on factors such as fish habitat and fish community composition, compared to semi-urban and rural fishers. This finding emphasizes the need for education and outreach efforts that effectively communicate the implications of changing environmental conditions on livelihoods dependent on fishes. In semi-urban communities, perceptions of increasing frequency of extreme events (e.g., increasing strong winds) were positively associated with adoption of strategies such as purchasing boat insurance and motorizing boats. Community cohesion was significantly associated with adoption of adaptation strategies in rural communities, highlighting the importance of investment in social capital in addition to human (e.g., education) and economic (e.g., access to credit) capital, dependent on community-type.

Unfortunately, all three community-types expressed distrust in authority and institutions tasked with implementing policies relevant to the fishing industry. This distrust was attributed to the perception that authorities disregard the concerns of fishing communities, and prioritize agricultural communities over fishing communities. Therefore, increasing adoption of adaptation strategies to successfully address changing fishing conditions will depend on understanding both individual and community dynamics, and developing policies that promote capacity building, enhance community cohesion, and consider perspectives of those directly affected by these various threats.


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Lushani Nanayakkara

Lushani Nanayakkara

I completed my PhD at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. I study both the human dimensions (via stakeholder surveys) and ecological dynamics (via ecosystem surveys and stable isotopes) of aquatic ecosystems. Prior to this I completed my MSc in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Johns Hopkins University. I currently live in Ottawa, and in my spare time I love hanging out with my dog Piper, travelling, cooking and listening to podcasts. Find me on Twitter @SciPoliBoundary

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