Sussex Sustainability Research Programme

Tools for safe and sustainable artisanal fishing

Contributing to accurate and accessible marine forecasts along with local scientists and fishers for safer and sustainable fishing.

SDGs

SDG 2SDG 11SDG 15

The team

Principal Investigator (PI) and Co PI details

Principal Investigator

Co-Investigators

Project team

Post-doctoral Researcher: Dr Max Martin, Global Studies, Max.Martin@sussex.ac.uk

Partners

Advisor

Local collaborators:

  • Dr. R. Harikumar, Scientist 'D' & In-charge: Ocean State Forecast Services, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, India
  • Dr. Sekhar L. Kuriakose, Member Secretary, Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, Head (Scientist), State Emergency Operations Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, India.

Where we worked

Thiruvananthapuram, India

Project title

Co-production of knowledge and communication tools for safe and sustainable artisanal fishing.

Overview

Accurate, accessible and actionable forecasts can reduce weather-related accidents in fishing, the world’s riskiest job. Along the southwestern coast of India inhabited by poor artisanal fishers, such accidents are frequent during the monsoon season (June – September) when high wind and large waves make fishing in the Arabian Sea risky.

Working closely with the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), and Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), this project explored ways to improve forecasts by studying:

  1. Local hazard risks
  2. the decision-making process involved in fishing; and
  3. ways to coproduce risk communication with fishers and forecasters.

The project considered ways to enhance the relevance, accuracy and uptake of risk communication and looked at three dimensions of the socio-ecological systems of artisanal fishers - marine weather, risk culture, and challenges to sustainability. Practically, the project addressed safety issues and challenges and offers solutions in line with international best practices, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.

Full project description 

The fishing harbor at Vizhinjam village in Thiruvananthapuram, where fishers from the southern parts of the district launch and land their boats during the monsoon season, when the sea is often roughFig 1: The fishing harbor at Vizhinjam village in Thiruvananthapuram, where fishers from the southern parts of the district launch and land their boats during the monsoon season, when the sea is often rough.

The project contributes to accurate and accessible marine forecasts made and shared with local scientists, officials and artisanal fishers for safer and sustainable fishing. It combines the rich traditional knowledge of the fishing communities and scientific observations to understand climatic and environmental hazard risks and vulnerabilities of artisanal fishers, and their risk culture. Based on this knowledge, this interdisciplinary research initiative developed and tested a set of ICT tools and messages for effective risk communication.

Methodologically, it explores novel means to enhance resilience, safety and sustainability of artisanal fisheries. It mapped fish stock and fishers' journeys, and measures ocean state and weather parameters using situ stations and satellite data, and combined it with ethnography to understand local risk cultures and co-produced a risk communication model. 

The proposed field site is coastal Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, South India, home to over 30,000 artisanal fishers in 42 villages and hamlets, known for their inexpensive wooden rafts, canoes and small boats. They often go far offshore without navigation, radio communication or safety gadgets. During the season, sudden weather changes, heavy rain, strong wind and rough sea often lead to fishers losing coordinates, straying into shipping channels and running out of fuel or developing boat engine snags. In the absence of accessible marine weather forecasts, a culture that encourages risk-taking adds to the problem. Accidents are frequent, especially during the rough-sea monsoon season. Cyclone Ockhi in November 2017 left over 120 fishers from the district dead or missing in the worst disaster of recent times.

The project provided a scalable model to reduce risks involved in artisanal fishing, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on food security, environmental conservation and community development.

Timeline and funding

The project began in January 2018 and was funded until December 2018. The total amount of funding received was £69,985.

Methods

On the coast of Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala state, we selected two fishing villages – Anjengo and Poonthura. We tracked five small (30 – 34 feet) boats in each village and logged their fishing trips for 120 consecutive days, covering the monsoon season of 2018. We compared this data with forecasts, instrument observation of wind and waves, and 20 interviews and 8 focus group discussions with local fishers.

Findings

  • Fishers seek and use multiple forecast sources even when they are not always easily accessible. Forecasts, however, are often generic and inadequate. The fishers compare forecasts with their traditional knowledge and direct observation of the sea and the sky to decide when to go fishing.

  • Up to 72% of the forecasts issued are accurate. While forecasters do not miss major weather events, they often issue false alarms, restricting fishing.

  • Fishing decisions seem to be driven by the availability (and scarcity) of fish more than anything else; and fish are abundant on some days during the monsoon season.

Fig 2: A table showing a set of windy days with large waves in June 2018. The maps show wind speed and wave height at different distances from the shore. While the forecasts for the period were generally very good, the fishers decided to fish even when there was an advice for caution.The fishers usually operated within five km from the shore duringA table showing a set of windy days with large waves in June 2018. The maps show wind speed and wave height at different distances from the shore. While the forecasts for the period were generally very good, the fishers decided to fish even when there was an advice for caution.The fishers usually operated within five km from the shore during the monsoon season, as closer to the shore wind and waves are lower than that in the high sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 4: Fishers of Anjengo and Poonthura went to fish on more than 70 per cent of the days when there was no alert or advisory in place. Fishers of Poonthura went to fishon 70 per cent of the days when there was an NVIS (do not ventureinto the sea) advisory, and close to 60 per cent when there was an advisory (calling for caution). Fishers of AnjengFishers of Anjengo and Poonthura went to fish on more than 70 per cent of the days when there was no alert or advisory in place. Fishers of Poonthura went to fishon 70 per cent of the days when there was an NVIS (do not ventureinto the sea) advisory, and close to 60 per cent when there was an advisory (calling for caution). Fishers of Anjengo when to the sea only on 40 per cent of the days when there was an NVIS advisory, and close to 50 per cent when there was an alert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

The findings are relevant to overlapping Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In uncertain weather, fishing is risky or restricted, with impacts on local livelihoods (SDG 1: No Poverty) and food security (SDG 2: End Hunger). As fish stock is depleted in the coastal waters (SDG 14: Ocean Conservation), fishers take multiple risks anyway by going offshore in bad weather.

We recommend accurate, local and timely forecasts over multiple channels (such as mobile phones, the Internet, and VHF/FM radio), backed by better weather observation networks and systems (SDG 13: Climate Action) to help fishers make informed decisions.

Forecasters and fishers need to interact closely to share experiences, knowledge and challenges they face. Such co-production of weather knowledge can contribute to better forecasts for safe and sustainable fishing (SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth).

Related work

SSRP policy brief 2 forecasting with fishers