Impact of Climate Change on Fishermen Livelihood Assets and its Vulnerability

 / Research / In-House /ISE/ Impact of Climate Change on Fishermen Livelihood Assets and its Vulnerability

The Project

The fishermen villages have been located near to the shore as required for their profession and their livelihoods face enormous challenges by natural calamities including climate change. Coastal fishermen are prone to stress and shocks resulting from climate change parameters including sea level rise, cyclones, erosion, floods etc. Climate change in the coastal waters affects the productivity of coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, fish stock, and fish migration routes. Increase of sea surface temperature, sea level rise, acidification, heavy rainfall, extreme events like storms, erosion, flooding, salt water intrusion, cyclones, El Nino and drought are the important climate change indicators that influence sustainable livelihood of fishing communities. Since fishing is the only major livelihood of coastal and marine fishermen, they are the most vulnerable community due to global climate change. Considering the livelihood threats to the communities, The National Environmental Policy., 2006 has emphasised that the conservation of environmental resources is indispensable to secure the livelihoods and well-being of all. To conserve and protect the unique environment of coastal stretches and marine areas, besides ensuring livelihood security to the fisher communities and other local communities in the coastal areas and to promote sustainable development based on scientific principles taking into account the dangers of natural hazards, sea level rise due to global warming, Government declared the coastal stretches of the country and the water area up to its territorial water limit as Coastal Regulation Zone.

The project on “Impacts of climate change on fishermen livelihood assets and its vulnerability” was aimed to investigate the climate change impacts on the life and livelihoods of fishermen community and risk management by application of ISO 31000. In this project, fishermen livelihood assets and capitals of fishing villages were classified into natural, physical, human, socio-political and financial capitals. The climate change risks on the above livelihood capitals were identified and quantified to mitigate the risk by developing a local level management plans. Under this project a case study was conducted in Malappuram district of Kerala.

Fig. 4: Pentagon showing livelihood capitals


To study the impacts of climate change impacts on the life and livelihoods of coastal fishing communities and to analyse the adaptive capacity of risk management.


  • To assess the livelihood capitals of fishing villages

  • Identification and quantification of risks of livelihood capitals of the fishing community due to climate change.

  • To formulate mitigation measures adaptive management plans to promote  sustainable livelihood of fishermen

Key Findings

This project has developed methodologies to identify the livelihood capitals by classifying them as natural, physical, social, human and financial capitals. This project used ISO 31000 “Risk management guidelines” to study the climate change impacts on the livelihoods of coastal communities. ISO 31000 (2009) “Risk management guidelines” provides a management framework and processes to identify, analyse, evaluate and treat the risks to reduce their adverse impacts. The guideline principles and frameworks have also been applied for climate change risk management by many organisations and Governments.

Fig. 5: Climate change Risk management process

Climate change risk identification process using ISO 31000 guideline has revealed that the climate change indicators such as increase of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and Sea Level Rise (SLR) are leveraging risks such as increase of frequency of cyclones, floods, sea water intrusion in the ground water aquifers, erosion and accretion in the shores, reduction in fish catch, drought and decreased horticulture production. Global warming, SLR, increase of SST, increased frequency of cyclone and flood, shoreline changes, drought and sea water intrusion like climate change parameters, combine together and create problems in the livelihoods of the fishing community. SST affects fish migrations, fish physiology, fish breeding, fish recruitment and habitat loss. SLR induced flood, cyclone and shoreline changes includes the inland movement of habitats, squeeze of settlements, submergence of building and other infrastructures. The SLR consequences on the physical assets of fishing communities include ruining of settlements, collapse of infrastructures, fishing equipment’s and reduction of common property lands. The SLR consequences over other assets by ecosystem degradation, transformation, reduction in fish stock, reduction in potable water, increase of hazards, prone to health ailments, increase of conflicts, rise of homeless and poverty, involuntary migrations, loss of employment, and increase of debt have been identified and estimated. Hazard line map prepared by MoEF&CC is an important tool to identify the vulnerability of flood, erosion and sea level rise risks in coastal areas of India.

The study identified drought also as an important climate change impact on the livelihood capitals of the fishing community. Drought affects the fishing village by prolonged shortages in the water supply in the surface and groundwater. Soaring demand for water for drinking, domestic purposes, agricultural and industrial are the major consequences of the drought. Horticulture crops including coconut plantation and the livestock of fishermen face major problems during this drought period. Reduction in agriculture and livestock production have also been confirmed by primary data of this study. Fishermen are experiencing skin allergy and heat related diseases during this period. Conflict between the houses and villages have been encountered due to the water crisis. Reduction in income and expenditure for potable water reduce their savings and increase their debt.

The risks faced by the fishing community in relation to various climate change parameters differ based on their adaptive capacity, sensitivity and exposure. This project has analysed various treatment measures for the climate change risks to reduce the impact on fishing communities. The recommended climate change risk treatments in this case study include adaptation options and interventions to modify the risks.