Our Changing Climate: Coral reefs, coastal communities and climate change


Caribbean Islands such as Anguilla and Montserrat are no strangers to beach erosion and stronger, more frequent hurricanes as a result of climate change. In the final blog of the series we hear from a CANARI led project working to save coral reefs, local livelihoods and fisheries from climate change.

The first post from the series featuring Project Oratsimba led by SEED Madagascar, highlighting their work with the fishing communities of Anosy, Madagascar to improve resilience of the local lobster fisheries, can be found here. The second post features a Charles Sturt University led project and their journey to bring awareness to the importance of biodiversity for communities in Timor Leste.

We hope you have enjoyed the series on “Our Changing Climate”!

Adapting and building resilience to climate change in Anguilla’s and Montserrat’s fisheries

Fisherfolk and their livelihoods are increasingly at risk from climate change and related disasters in Caribbean islands like Anguilla and Montserrat. The erosion of beaches, loss of coral reefs and mangroves due to rising sea levels, coral bleaching and shifts in fish populations due to rising ocean temperatures, sargassum influxes, and more intense storms and hurricanes pose a significant challenge. As one Anguillan fisherman, Aristo, lamented, “We have to go out further and deeper now, the gas [for our boats] is so expensive and fish production is lower in the reefs. So it’s really tough.”

Recognising these challenges, the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) worked from 2017 to 2020 to support adaptation to climate change in the fisheries sector in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources – Anguilla, the Fisheries and Ocean Governance Unit – Montserrat and the University of the West Indies – Centre for Resource Management and Environment Studies (CERMES). An innovative ecosystem approach to fisheries was used to address the multiple risks from climate change, and to conserve key coastal and marine ecosystems and ensure sustainable fisheries and local livelihoods.

Participatory three-dimensional (3D) modelling was used to assess climate change impacts and vulnerabilities from ‘ridge to reef’ as part of an ecosystem approach. Through a facilitated process, fisherfolk, other coastal and marine resource users and local authorities built physical 3D models of the islands of Anguilla and Montserrat and the surrounding marine areas to document local knowledge on resource use, livelihoods and areas critical to fisheries, including fishing communities, landing sites and fish habitats. The 3D models were used to identify priorities, such as: strengthening fisherfolk’s adaptive capacity through safety at sea training, accessing insurance and developing alternative livelihoods; improving systems for monitoring changes; and protecting and restoring coral reefs that support fisheries to address identified threats from coastal erosion, more intense storms and storm surge and sargassum influxes. The data was also digitised to produce geographic information systems (GIS) databases and maps, which can be integrated with scientific data to support land use and marine planning.

An institutional assessment to determine the community’s readiness to adapt, which included interviews and focus groups with various government authorities and fisherfolk leaders, was also undertaken. It revealed a lack of relevant data to inform decisions, weak coordination mechanisms and gaps in the policy and legal framework to support adaptation in the fisheries sector. The fisheries authorities, fisherfolk leaders and other coastal and resource managers were then trained by CANARI and CERMES in applying an ecosystem approach to fisheries and supported to integrate adaptation and disaster management considerations into fisheries management plans. This included updating Anguilla’s Small Coastal Pelagics Management Plan and Montserrat’s National Fisheries Plan.

Participants posing with Montserrat 3D model, Credit – Government of Montserrat

Based on these assessments, fisherfolk organisations were provided with small grants to adapt and promote stewardship of coastal and marine ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves. In Anguilla, the Anguilla Fisherfolk Association in collaboration with the Anguilla National Trust and fisheries authority helped restore coastal and marine habitats in the Prickly Pear Marine Protected Area by constructing lobster casitas to create a habitat for the Caribbean spiny lobster and create an artificial reef. In Montserrat, the Montserrat Fishers and Boaters Association conducted climate smarting of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and fish traps to make them more resilient and environmentally friendly. Additionally, fisherfolk were trained and supported to create videos to showcase their own perspectives on the local impacts of climate change and their vulnerabilities, and advocate for changes in policy and practice for improved fisheries management.

CANARI and CERMES will be building on this work in a new Darwin Plus project from 2021 to 2024 to address the increasing risks of sargassum influxes to the fisheries and tourism sectors and build coastal resilience in Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands.

Written by Dr. Ainka Granderson and Melanie Andrews. Further information on project DPLUS066, led by CANARI can be found here and at https://arcg.is/LWOfy. This article and others featured in our latest newsletter on “Our Changing Climate” are available here.

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