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Monday, 11 November 2019 09:55

Adding the Climate Factor to Our Fisheries Advice Featured

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Caribbean-based fisheries experts learn how to work with spatial climate change impact assessment data in an open-source geographic information system, QGIS, to support fisheries management and marine spatial planning. Caribbean-based fisheries experts learn how to work with spatial climate change impact assessment data in an open-source geographic information system, QGIS, to support fisheries management and marine spatial planning.


CRFM has just published its latest Research Paper Collection (Volume 9) that tells us what the fisheries sector can expect from climate change – regional maps showing changes in our fish and shellfish populations, estimates of harder economic times, with less fish to catch, less money to make, and less fresh fish for the local consumer.

The scientists and advisors who guided these latest studies were on the ground in St. Lucia during 28 October – 1 November 2019 to train 14 Caribbean-based fisheries experts. The Training Workshop covered methods and tools for including climate change information into existing monitoring programmes, and for managing access and use of the information in meeting fisheries management needs.

Trainees came mostly from 5 countries and 2 regional agencies participating in the Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (CRT-PPCR), implemented by the Mona Office for Research and Innovation at the University of the West Indies with grant funding from the Climate Investment Fund through the Inter-American Development Bank.

The CRFM is co-implementing the marine sub-component of the Project, and the St. Lucia Workshop was part of an assignment intended to strengthen information and stakeholder knowledge about the ecological and socio-economic impacts of climate change, and to install a supporting monitoring system for maintaining the information and knowledge base. ESSA Technologies Ltd., an environmental science consulting firm based in Canada, has provided the under-pinning scientific expertise.

The training sessions were designed to build on priority areas agreed during earlier planning and technical consultation phases, and included training in a range of methods and tools, including: species distribution modelling; market fish supply-demand modelling; climate-intelligent monitoring for speaking to several “Big Questions’ that Caribbean fisheries managers would need to answer in addressing the extra challenge of climate change impacts; adaptation and marine spatial planning and decision-making, and; storage and access of data, information and knowledge products via a CRFM Portal arrangement.

By the end of the 5-day training session, the Caribbean trainees had also participated in various individual and group practice exercises that included: use of the freely available statistical software R, use of freely available geographical information system software (QGIS) for marine spatial planning applications, development of customized fisheries monitoring cards, role playing with adaptation planning scenario analyses, and use of the CRFM portal being developed for managing use of the data and information base. The training also touched on communication tools for achieving changes in behaviour of target groups.

When training ended, and participants were asked to evaluate the activity, the response was mostly a clear ‘thumbs up’. Hermione Elcock from Grenada (a project pilot country) confirmed that for the training, “Resources were relevant”, while Elizabeth Mohammed who participated as an observer from Trinidad and Tobago highlighted that the “Training approach was successful in targeting an audience of diverse knowledge, experience and skills”. Getting used to using ‘R’ presented the most challenge for trainees, but of course the training session time only allowed for an introduction to ‘R’, and follow up practice is expected.

Following the Workshop, two of the trainees shared some additional important reflections on the significance of what took place at this milestone PPCR Workshop.

Elizabeth Mohammed offered her congratulations to ESSA Technologies Ltd, the CRFM Secretariat and to the PPCR countries for delivering so comprehensively on this Project, remarking, “I am astounded at the quantity and quality of the outputs”. Ms. Mohammed went on to say that “In so far as quantifying the ecological and socio-economic impacts of climate change on fisheries at a scale that is useful for countries to make climate-resilient decisions - it is indeed the first time we have done this. We now have the basic tools and a standardized monitoring framework that will allow us to refine, repeat or upscale the analyses over time, and by this means, also to assess whether we are achieving the desired outcomes and how to adapt our strategies accordingly.”

Likewise, Junior Squire from Jamaica (a project pilot country), echoed the same sentiments and added also that “I do believe the CRFM Portal will provide the right medium to stimulate a culture change from one of hoarding to one of sharing information among Member States”.

Susan Singh-Renton, who is leading this work from the CRFM side, expressed her own satisfaction so far about the full range of work done under the present impact assessment and monitoring assignment, saying that “The CRT-PPCR has been very crucial for us in the fisheries sector to break out of a state of not knowing exactly where we are in fisheries relative to climate change impacts. When the fishermen are saying that they have to go farther and deeper to catch fish, we now have the science to prove them right and this is a game-changer!


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