Monday, July 19, 2010

Climate Change Hits Moroccan Fishermen

Rising temperatures and more frequent heat waves in the Mediterranean are contributing to an undermining of fishing activities and the quality of fish caught. Mohammed Tafraouti reports for Middle East Online.

Traditional fishing has become today a pressing issue as a sector which, if properly developed, could increase job opportunities and alleviate unemployment, particularly in coastal areas.

Workers in the sector endure vulnerable social and economic conditions owed to loss of income and the dwindling of resources, with the harshness of nature and the impacts of climate changes only exacerbating the situation.

These challenges are faced by many fishing villages on the Moroccan coasts, including the one of Saidia, one of the country’s major summer resorts and a popular destination for tourists located in the North eastern Mediterranean coast of the country. Yet, the local population continues to rely on traditional fishing and local crops. The region of Saidia-Ras El Maa houses 42600 inhabitants of whom 76% live in rural areas while city dwellers do not exceed 24%. The Saidia fishermen use small 5 to 6 meters-long boats and operate along the coast between the estuary of the Moulouya River and the city of Saidia.

Fishermen from Saidia

The ACCMA project, implemented in the framework of Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA), funded jointly by IDRC (Canada) and DFID (United Kingdom), operates in this region in an attempt to improve the potentialities of adaptation of the traditional fishing activity in coastal zones. The pursuit of such goals has become a must in order to develop the Saidia fishing site and enable fishermen to adapt to climate changes such as temperature rising and extreme weather events. The project also seeks to improve fishermen’s living and working conditions and preserve natural resources and the local marine ecosystem in its general aspect in order to develop the traditional fishing sector, facilitate adaptation and better fishing practices against the undeniable impacts of climate change on the eastern Mediterranean coast.

Climate Change and Environment Degradation

Climate change affects fishermen activities by limiting fishing days and influencing the quantity and quality of fish harvested. Other factors of impact include the tourism development in the region and which generates solid and liquid waste polluting the coast and the unfair fishing practices of larger ships.

The Mediterranean coast suffers from the rise of temperatures and a stronger recurrence of heat waves which drive fish away from warmer waters and result in turn in an intensification of the fishing activity and an expansion of the fishing perimeter following the change of seasons. These and different other factors have also affected the species of fish caught and their suitability for consumption, influencing catch volumes and the profitability for fishermen. Furthermore, the frequency and severity of increasingly unpredictable storms have seriously reduced the number of fishing days.

Dr. Abdellatif Khattabi, Coordinator of the ACCMA project and professor at the National School for Forest Engineers, pointed out that the region will experience the effects of climate change. In-depth analysis carried out in the region by the ACCMA project forecasts a clear upward trend of average annual temperature degrees, and a worsening of harsh weather conditions such as droughts and flood and more frequent and longer spells of cold and heat waves. Dr Kattabi explains that according to this study, the region records an annual increase in temperature ranging between 0.6 and 1.1 degrees, a 4% decrease in rainfall volumes, and a 10 to 14% drop in water resources. This might be coupled with the rise of sea level, higher probability of recurrent storms and a disruption of wave patterns.

Faced by such a bleak and embarrassing environmental situation and after an in-depth data processing, the ACCMA project recommended the improvement of fishermen’s living and fishing conditions and building the capacities of local communities to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change.

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