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September In-Focus: Resilience in the face of climate change


The recent AR6 report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlined the current and anticipated outcomes of human-induced climate change. According to the IPCC report, ocean warming accounted for 91% of the heating in the climate system from 2006-2018, with land warming and ice loss contributing 5% and 3%, respectively. This heating contributes to sea-level rise through thermal expansion of water (warmer water takes up more space), and melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Heating and acidification caused by excess CO2 emissions are degrading marine food webs and habitats, with ecosystem services being disrupted around the world. Combined, these changes are having devastating effects globally, threatening lives and livelihoods of coastal communities and small-scale fisheries.

What might these look like?

Extreme and unpredictable weather events create unsafe working conditions and make fishing more dangerous, especially for small-scale fisheries whose vessels are often smaller. Loss of fishing days due to extreme weather adversely affects the livelihoods of fishers, putting pressure on small-scale fisheries to take unnecessary risks. Physical damage from cyclones, storm surges, and flooding can destroy houses, boats, and roadways, while salinity intrusion can affect drinking water availability, and viability of alternative livelihoods like agriculture by ruining soil quality, which can take years to recover.

Ice-loss affects the accessibility of fishing grounds and food sovereignty in northern communities, while resulting sea-level rise will displace millions of people from low-lying coastal areas. Ocean warming directly threatens food security by disrupting marine food webs and ecosystem services, with knock-on effects to economic, social, and cultural systems, particularly in Indigenous and coastal communities.

In the current age of climate change, “weather shocks” and disasters are more frequent and intense. Building resilience capacity is essential to help reduce marginalization and vulnerability of small-scale fisheries and coastal communities. Understanding the diverse perspectives and experiences of small-scale fisheries and disaster survivors through stories and narratives is one way to engage people in capacity building and co-development of climate change and ocean governance solutions. Different questions may need to be asked, to address issues related to climate and environmental justice, considering that not everyone is affected equally by climate disasters. Numerous evidences exist about how people cope with disasters, but challenges remain in taking the lessons and integrating them in disaster and risk prevention strategies and policies. It is also important to learn from traditional communities about livelihood strategies that have proven to help with recovery and resilience.

OFI Module I researchers and partners are working to formulate innovative solutions as part of the ‘Getting IT Right’ initiative. An emerging theme is the importance of social capital for resilience and capacity building. Social bonding through storytelling, resource sharing, and working together helps to build a network of trust, comradery, and shared understanding – we’re all in this together and we’ll get through it together! Over the next few months, and considering the recent IPCC report, we’ll be discussing the effects of climate change on fisheries and fishing communities. If you would like to contribute a short commentary (between 500-800 words) on this topic, or anything related to it, please send it to us at Please feel free to share with those who might be interested.

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