Category: Costal and marine | Freshwater | Livelihood | Management

Climate change: A threat for fishermen communities

Bangladesh is situated at the interface of two contrasting settings with the Bay of Bengal and the North Indian Ocean to the south and the Himalayas to the north. This gives the country the life giving monsoons on one hand, and the catastrophic disasters like tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods, droughts and erosion, on the other. The geographical location, low and almost flat topography, very high population density etc. have made the country one of the most vulnerable countries of the world to be affected by the impact of climate change.

Climate change has been manifested in different forms such as rise in temperature, melting snow in the mountain and polar region, sea level rise, excess floods and drought conditions, changes in the natural behaviour of seasons. These changes have been man made and mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels, emission of CO2 gases from the green house effects, overexploitation of resources and destruction of forests and consequently depletion of ozone layers (Wahab and Islam, 2009). The change of climatic factors such as low rainfall in the rainy season and higher temperature in peak aquaculture production caused for several implications. Lower rainfall resulted in low level of water in the river which in turn made the fishers to operate fishing gears easily and intensify river fishing. Similarly lower rainfall reduces the scope of work for labourers in rain-fed rice farming that in turn forced them to river fishing. This dual causing fishing pressure made river fishery vulnerable in the recent years (Haque, 2009).

From the habitat point of view, three principle habitat forms exist from which fish are harvested. These are i) major rivers and their floodplains, ii) beels and iii) estuaries. Among them the area under rivers and their floodplains and estuaries are ninety percent and rest of inland open water. Rivers and their floodplains and beels are the main habitat for major carps and catfishes (Ali, 1999). In inland open water system of Bangladesh, there exist 260 species of fin fish belonging to 55 families (Rahman, 2005). From the national biodiversity point of view, it is notable that 12 critically endangered species, 28 endangered and 14 vulnerable fish species were categorized from the 260 species (IUCN-Bangladesh, 2000).

In 2007- 2008 total fish production was about 2,563,296 MT (capture 1,060,181 MT). Of this, inland culture fisheries contributed 1,005,542 MT and marine fisheries 497,573 MT. (FRSS, 2009). Production from open-water capture fisheries is reported to have declined due to lack of optimum flow of water, siltation which reduces the rate of water flow and causes habitat degradation, the loss of spawning ground and reduction of natural seed production. Inland fisheries are particularly vulnerable to reduced rainfall and river flows, a threat that is likely to be compounded by growing demands for water for irrigation and domestic and industrial use. Fish migration routes, spawning and feeding grounds and fishing seasons are all likely to change, and the impacts on fishing communities are uncertain (WorldFish Centre, 2009).

The fishermen community is a group which fishing in some areas and engaged in more or less the same pattern of fishing. Fishermen have to change their professions as fish stock has declining but they are not so educated and do not have experience of new jobs. Many fishermen have disappeared and who remain struggling maintain their family. The fishermen are rendered unemployed as fish production and fish diversity is reducing gradually due to climate change.

So, efforts have been undertaken by development agencies to combat climate change globally. It is also important for development of sustainable ways and means to deal with environmental condition and improvement of socio-economic conditions of the fishermen communities. Government with the support of national and international organizations are working on the issue of climate change by updating knowledge and developing technical and professional skills of human resources to mitigate the effect of climate change.

References

  • Ali, M. Y. 1999. “Fish Resources Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Bangladesh”. In Saleemul Huq; Z. Karim; M. Asaduzzaman; and F. Mahtab (eds.) Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change for Bangladesh. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands. pp. 113-124.
  • FRSS. 2009. Fisheries Statistical Yearbook of Bangladesh, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Dhaka. 49 pp.
  • Haque, M. M. 2009. Fisheries and aquaculture in seasonal Bangladesh: implications of climate change. In Proc. workshop on “Impacts of climate change on livelihoods, agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries sector of Bangladesh” held in Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensigh. 01 October, 2009. pp. 47-53.
  • IUCN-Bangladesh. 2000. Red Book of Threatened Fishes of Bangladesh. IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Bsngladesh. 116 pp.
  • Rahman, A. K. A. 2005. Freshwater Fishes of Bangladesh (Second edition). The Zoological Society of Bangladesh, Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000. 394 pp.
  • Wahab, M. A. and M. A. Islam. 2009. Challenges of climate change to fisheries and aquaculture in Bangladesh. In Proc. workshop on “Impacts of climate change on livelihoods, agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries sector of Bangladesh” held in Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensigh. 01 October, 2009. pp. 65-68
  • WorldFish Centre. 2009. Dangers of Climate Change. URL: http://www.worldfishcenter.org

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Ex-student, Department of Fisheries, University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi-6205, Bangladesh. More...

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