Scientific methods to make fishermen’s lives safer
The shortcomings in weather forecasts had led traditional fishers to venture out into the sea leading to accidents.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The shortcomings in weather forecasts had led traditional fishers to venture out into the sea leading to accidents. In an effort to make the livelihoods of small and traditional fishers more secure and sustainable by improving the safety at sea, a weather-related training programme was recently held for the fishermen at three fishing villages- Marianadu, Puthiyathura, and Vizhinjam.
Around 50 traditional fishermen and youngsters from these coastal villages participated in the two-day training session organised by the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) in collaboration with the University of Sussex (UK).
The training session was led by Dr Abhilash S, scientist and assistant professor, department of Atmospheric Sciences at CUSAT, along with other researchers Dr Johnson Jament, Dr Max Martin, and Dr Visakh M who facilitated the programme in these coastal villages. Kishore Clement, belonging to the fishermen community, explained how the weather communication system works.
“The weather-related training programme for the traditional fishers is the result of the 18 months of research done in three fishing villages in Thiruvananthapuram by CUSAT and University of Sussex where new ways to produce and communicate localised weather forecasts were explored. During the research, the fishermen evinced their interest in understanding the science behind weather forecasting, to complement their traditional knowledge. Hence, a training session was organised for traditional fishers to predict weather more accurately before fishing,” said Dr Johnson Jament, one of the researchers.
Study on decentralised weather forecasting
The study titled ‘For a Decentralised Weather Forecasting for Kerala Traditional Fishers’ focused on promoting safety at sea, sustainable livelihoods, and resilience to climate change. Over 18 months, the research team has been collecting robust empirical pieces of evidence on fishing practices along the coast, as well as data on weather patterns at sea.
“On analysis of more than 300 interviews with fishers, focused group discussions and extensive household surveys, the research team has established that fishers’ decisions concerning whether to fish or not under hazardous weather/sea conditions are based on a combination of different knowledge, as well as on the availability of fish in the sea, and on economic needs of the households concerned. However, the existing weather forecasts cover an area of the ocean too wide to be useful to traditional fishers for the safe planning of their fishing activities which normally take place within an average of 35 km from the coast,” say the researchers.
Regardless of the shortcomings in existing forecasts and generalised lack of trust in their precision and usefulness, the research team established that traditional fishers are responsive to scientific advice as long as science addresses their needs.
Indeed, they demand more science-based interventions which respond to their needs and increase their safety at sea. Scientists at CUSAT Advanced Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research (ACARR) and at Sussex University (UK) have devised a three-tier approach to provide traditional fishers with tailor-made weather forecasts.
At the same time, the research team devised and tested effective and easily accessible communication tools to make localised forecasts accessible to local fishing communities. An automated weather monitoring station (AWS) has also been installed recently by the research team in Karumkulam at Puthiyathura.
The research was supported by the scientists from the India Meteorological Department, the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
“ The research will be completed by March 2022. We are planning to provide more weather-related training programmes to the fishers in all coastal villages in the state in the coming days,” said Dr Johnson, a researcher.
Fisher population in district
- There are more than 180,000 active traditional fishers in Kerala, of whom 50,000 live in the district.
- Coastal households are highly dependent on fishing and daily sale of fish, and the bulk of fishing income goes towards covering daily household expenses, acquiring or servicing fishing gear, repaying debts, and sustaining wider family and community
- Available statistics suggest that 50% of fishing households remain below poverty line