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SSRP research with artisanal fishers highlights working with local communities to meet global challenges

Susa Melkias, a fisherman who coordinates the local disaster risk reduction work, playing Radio Monsoon’s marine weather forecast bulletin over a megaphone at the Anchuthengu lagoon, where local fishers dock their boats.

Poonthura meet Fishers of Poonthura village close Thiruvananathapuram city gather at a local school for an informal meet to share their experience of taking p

New research by the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) highlights the need to work with local communities to meet global challenges.  Geographer Dr Max Martin –  as part of a Sussex team led by anthropologist Prof Filippo Osella – worked with artisanal fishers on the Malabar Coast of India to make marine weather forecasts more accurate and accessible, thereby saving lives. 

In this region marked by high ocean waves, sudden variation and uncertainties of weather cause many accidents. Of late, there has been a trend of extreme events in the Arabian Sea, as marked by the 2017 Cyclone Ockhi that killed 162 fishermen from Kerala and 203 from Tamil Nadu. The fishers are shaken. Many of them blame the lack of timely forecasts for the casualties.

Max lived in fishing villages, conducting interviews, holding focus groups, and tracking boats, and realised that the fishers are the best people to learn from in order to improve forecasting.

Engaged in one of the world’s most dangerous and precarious jobs, the artisanal fishers of the Arabian Sea seek detailed, timely, precise forecasts. However, beyond the range of mobile phones, there is no way for them to receive weather warnings or communicate distress signals. They would still feel pressured into fishing in bad weather because during the monsoon fish are more abundant and competition is less as trawlers are banned. 

The research team came up with a set of recommendations and, as an outcome, they are looking to help equip a fishers’ weather radio station that Max started with Sussex Innovation funding. If all goes well, by May before the rains start, Radio Monsoon will get a proper studio to go on air.  

The latest SSRP Policy Brief contains further information and research findings and recommendations from this project. 

By: Fiona Hurd
Last updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2019