Belize: Fishing in a sea of climate change

Norwegians have a rich history of fishing. So do people from Belize, a small country in the Caribbean, as Marianne Karlsson and Ilan Kelman repors in this article for The Foreigner.

Research funded by Norway’s government and research council is examining how fishers in Belize cope with social and environmental change. It is part of the Many Strong Voices programme which helps marginalised people help themselves to deal with climate change.

Fishing communities in Belize face many climate change challenges. They depend on the sea and coral reefs for food and income. They face changing storms, higher water temperatures, and rising sea levels.

As with Norwegian fishers, climate change is not the only challenge. Fuel and food prices are increasing. Tourism opens up lucrative opportunities, yet increases dependency on outside whims. Belize is heavily indebted. Consumerist lifestyles dictate increased demands on natural resources.

These multiple difficulties hit home when spending time on a fishing boat, to see the fishers’ day-to-day lives on the sea and to talk to them about what they face.

Nano the captain immediately observed the clouds, winds, and currents before setting off fishing when waking up early to the ocean’s gentle swell over the Belizean Barrier Reef. But, he explained, the weather is becoming more difficult to predict.

It changes more quickly. Weather associated with one season can now occur at any time of the year. Environmental knowledge passed down over generations is becoming outdated.

Nano is proud of being a fisherman, an occupation that he learnt from his father. Yet Nano does not want his own son to follow in his footsteps. Life at sea is getting harder, he said, as there are more fishers and less fish.

Meanwhile, fishermen wave to tourist boats passing by and must look out for poles demarking marine reserves where fishing is prohibited. These reserves are intended to protect biodiversity and fish stocks. They do not always consider fishers’ needs and desires.

Climate change is only one of several stressors to which Nano and his fisher friends must adjust. And they have advice to offer their Norwegian counterparts who also face climate change impacting the fisheries.

Those dealing with climate change need to learn how fishers are affected. Involve us in finding ways to stay on the water while supporting those who seek other livelihoods.

For the original report go to http://theforeigner.no/pages/columns/fishing-in-a-sea-of-climate-change/

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