Climate Action

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| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Artisanal Fishing and Climate Change: The Case of Pemba, Mozambique

  • Iracema Hussein
  • Maria de Fátima Alves
  • Fernando MorgadoEmail author
Living reference work entry


The fishing community concept includes the practices of fishing, identity, and other cultural, political-economic, and geographic processes. The concept is substantially dependent from the commercial, recreational, or subsistence harvest or processing of fishery resources to meet social and economic needs, and includes fishing vessel owners, operators, crew, and fish processors based in such community (Clay and Olson 2007).

Artisanal fishing corresponds to several small-scale, low-technology, low-capital fishing practices undertaken by individual fishing households. Many of these households are of coastal or island ethnic groups. Their production is usually not processed and is mainly for local consumption. Artisan fishing uses traditional fishing techniques such as rod and tackle, fishing arrows and harpoons, cast nets, and small (if any) traditional fishing boats. Artisan fishing may be undertaken for both commercial and subsistence reasons (FAO 2015).

The term perception derives from the Latin word perceptiō, and is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the information from the environment (Ou 2017).

Environmental literacy constitutes the desirable outcome of environmental education which strives to provide individuals with effective scientific information, in order to improve skills for critical thinking, creative and strategic problem solving, essential to make responsible decisions and to develop environmental protective programs (Hollweg et al. 2011).


Globally, about 357 million people are affected by small-scale fisheries, which represent more than 90% of the world’s 35 million capture fishers, and livelihoods of fisheries (FAO 2015). In Mozambique, marine fisheries account for more than 90% of total Mozambican fish production. Small-scale and artisanal fishing in Mozambique play a significant role in the national economy, representing about 80% of total marine catches, with annual catches of about 120,000 t, of which 80% is captured by artisanal fishermen. Artisanal fishing is composed by individuals or small groups of fishermen with very weak economic power. After agriculture, the fishing industry is the second largest economic activity in the entire province of Cabo Delgado, and according to the latest census, carried out by the National Institute of Small-Scale Development (IDPPE), this region has 61 inland fishing centers and 136 in marine waters, involving about 14,261 fishermen (IDPPE 2012). Most of artisanal fishermen fish for domestic consumption and sell the surplus locally. Only a small number of artisanal fishermen are market-oriented, using boats, technologies, and more adequate labor (Ministério do Mar, Águas interiores e Pescas 2018).

Among other human activities, global changes are expected to directly affect fisheries worldwide affecting marine resources and their exploitation, with social and economic costs for human populations (Brander 2007, 2010; FAO 2015). Climate change affects severely both on the productivity and distribution areas, decreasing target species abundance, species replacement, and on the growth, survival, migratory behavior, and reproductive rates of many species. The current climate picture according to the fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2014) indicates that the global average temperature of the Earth’s surface had increased by approximately 0.6 °C in the twentieth century and estimates, in the baseline scenario (without additional mitigation), a global mean surface temperature increase, in 2100, from 3.7 °C to 4.8 °C, compared to preindustrial levels. The impacts of these changes can be devastating to the environment, natural resources and human physical infrastructures, health, food safety, and economic activities, making climate change a concern for all social groups (Delicado et al. 2012; Medeiros et al. 2014; Saunois et al. 2016), with severe impacts on biodiversity, populations, local economy, and industry (Seixas et al. 2014).

The coastal small-scale fishers are among the most insecure and vulnerable. The development of artisanal fisheries faces many challenges due to the lack of policies, strategies, and concrete experiences that can support sustainable fisheries production, better organization, and improvement of the livelihood of fishing communities. These communities make important but often poorly recognized contributions to the food security and to the national and regional economies. However, they are dependent on increasingly depleted and degraded resources, due to overcapacity, regional conflicts, and inadequate management. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, weather events are becoming more extreme, and greenhouse gas emissions are now at their highest levels in history. The EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change supports actions to make the EU more climate-resilient, defining the 2030 climate and energy policy framework that sets several key targets for 2030, including the Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (

Climate Change and Extreme Events in an African Context

Challenges to Marine Biodiversity and Sustainability of Artisanal Fisheries

Due to its extreme climatic and physical conditions, the African continent has a huge ecosystem diversity and a great abundance of species ranging from savannas, coral reefs, deserts to damp tropical forests. The greater diversity is thus concentrated in the tropical regions because they present greater available area, greater productivity (light, nutrients, temperature), and greater heterogeneity. Africa has 5 of the 25 internationally recognized biodiversity hotspots and shares a hotspot with other Mediterranean countries (Boon 2009). Maintaining biodiversity and sustainability of artisanal fisheries, biological resources, in the context of climate change, in Africa is one of the most important present challenges (United Nations Human Development Report 2007). There is greater uncertainty about how changes in climate will affect natural and human systems and how society can perceive and respond to these changes (Perch-Nielsen et al. 2008). Considering climate change alone, it can be seen that the livelihoods of many people around the world and in some specific systems and sectors are likely to be under increasing pressure from environmental changes that are likely to be affected by such impacts (IPCC 2014). The impacts have already been considered as an environmental problem, although they are now also a global threat to human life, including the international economy, public health, migration, employment, and, ultimately, international peace and security infrastructure (United Nations Human Development Report 2007; Warner and Laczko 2008). There is a strong belief that many semiarid areas will suffer from a decline in water resources due to climate change (IPCC 2014). These impacts contribute to the risk of extreme environmental events (droughts, floods, landslides, rising temperatures, and rising sea levels) with additional implications for displacement and forced migration of populations and, also, increasing the pressure on infrastructures, urban structures and services, economic growth, increasing the risk of conflict and social unrest and spread of health risks (Wilbanks et al. 2007).

In the African context, the geographical extent of the ecoregions and the complexity of management issues related to the political, socioeconomic, and biodiversity characteristics of these areas present a major challenge and require conservation commitments with medium-term plans for much longer periods which can span decades. In this context, it is imperative to protect biodiversity, understand how climate change is affecting people’s livelihoods, to increase the holistic understanding of people’s needs, and the development of different public policies, incorporating local knowledge and citizenship participation. In addition, the understanding of fluctuations in marine fish stocks, the sustainable use of marine resources, and fisheries management is essential for the species and ecosystems conservation, together with the sustainable use of fishing communities (Odada et al. 2008). Turning this vision into reality is transversal to the government’s responsibilities; however, it will also require new partnerships and international solidarity in a vision where everyone has a role to play.

Impacts of Climate Change on the City of Pemba

Global and climate change in Mozambique has resulted in enormous human and economic losses throughout the country. Consequences are reflected in rising sea levels, extreme winds and cyclones, floods, rising air and water temperatures, and precipitation (CMCP-Municipal Council of the City of Pemba 2014). The impacts are manifested by an increase in extreme events such as heavy rains and high winds or even the absence of rainfall, which have serious implications for the population health and the development of the country. In Pemba, as a consequence of the mentioned extreme events, most of the population of central and northern Mozambique is affected each year with greater frequency and intensity, devastating plantations and displacing most of the population that lives mainly in the coastal areas. In turn, droughts affect the southern part of the country, causing the death of plants and animals, and endangering the life of the population, compromising the availability of water, livestock, and fish (National Institute of Management and Calamities (INGC 2009).

Countries such as Mozambique, which despite having a small and almost nonexistent number of industries and limited resources, are becoming increasingly difficult to adapt and mitigate climate change effects (IPCC 2014). In order to reduce the devastating impacts of climate change, Mozambique has taken some measures, such as the creation of MICOA in 1994, which is the main institution in the environment and climate change fields in Mozambique (Artur et al. 2015). Mozambique also ratified the three conventions on Biodiversity and Climate Change in 1995 in Rio de Janeiro, and in 1996, the country representatives signed the convention on desertification. The approval of the National Adaptation Action Plan (NAPA) in 2007, which was the first policy document to specifically address the issue of adaptation in Mozambique, whose main objective is to strengthen national capacity to address the adverse impacts of change climate change (Artur et al. 2015). The floods of 2000, 2001, and 2007; the cyclones of 2000, 2003, 2007; and the drought of 2002–2003, 2004–2005, and 2007 were factors that propelled the country in the creation of its own NAPA (Artur et al. 2015). The Mozambican government approved the National Strategy for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change (ENAMMC), which focuses on adaptation and management of climate risk and low carbon mitigation and development. Additionally, during 2013, the government also approved the Action Plan on the Green Economy in Mozambique, which highlights interventions for Mozambique to move towards the green economy (Viegas 2014). At the local level, the USAID-funded Coastal Cities Adaptation Program is implemented in partnership with the city council to reduce the economic impacts of climate change on coastal regions. This is how local government measures to adapt and mitigate climate change at local level (CMCP 2014).

The Perceptions About Climate Change

Importance for Behavior Changes in the Mozambican Context

Perception is one of the interpretation forms of a certain reality, which is totally linked and related to the culture and history of the populations; each individual in each community has their own perceptions about the surrounding environment, so climate change is seen by society as a concern due to its impacts, intensity, and frequency of extreme events (Hathaway and Maibach 2018). The characterization of local communities in relation to demographic, economic, and social indicators is crucial for the identification of vulnerabilities that can interfere with the use of natural resources, in particular in what concern the relation with artisanal fishery resources. In addition, the knowledge about community’s perceptions on the importance of the fisheries resources in biodiversity, and ecological systems and their vulnerabilities and relation to human actions and sociocultural systems and socioeconomic use of biological resources, are decisive to the communities changing of attitudes and behaviors. In this context, actions of scientific dissemination and environmental education among the fisherman community and populations are very important to improve the resources sustainability. In Mozambique, studies on climate change focus on mitigation and adaptation strategies, causes, impacts, and consequences on agriculture, forests, and health including water resources. The published basic studies on the perceptions and behaviors of the population are almost nonexistent. In this context, it is crucial to understand how people (in general), and the fishermen community (in particular), perceive climate change, and how it influences its activity and source of subsistence. Anthropogenic causes are the most important to explain the current and future scenarios of climate change; thus, it is crucial to increase the environmental literacy of the local populations (Mello et al. 2012). For that, it is necessary to understand how the populations understand, explain, and deal with climate change, and those interventions can start with an exploratory study with artisanal fishermen. Addressing the problems faced by small-scale fishers in the developing countries has been identified as a priority for FAO (2015), donors, and national governments alike. Further, in these countries, support to communities has been identified as a key activity in helping to achieve national poverty reduction in economic and gender targets outlined in their poverty reduction strategies and in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (2015).

Perceptions and Rationalities of Artisanal Fishermen on Climate Change: A Case Study in an African Context (Pemba, Mozambique)

During 2017 a case study was developed in the city of Pemba with the objective to understand how artisanal fishermen perceive climate change. This research was designed to understand how fisherman communities’ behaviors and actions could fit into the adaptation to climate change. The overall results demonstrated that 92.9% of the artisanal fishermen recognized that the climate is changing, throughout perceptions of changes in temperature or precipitation variation, sea level change, and variation in the wind regime, which corroborate the results of other similar studies (Mello et al. 2012; Viegas 2014; Medeiros et al. 2014), also demonstrating that the artisanal fisherman knowledge about climate change was mainly empirical. Fishermen in the coastal zones have this empirical knowledge because of their daily practices and experiences, i.e., because they were born and raised in these areas. Fishermen knowledge is a result of their activity (Delicado et al. 2012; Medeiros et al. 2014). Artisanal fishers possess its own knowledge about fish, its ecology, behavior, and distribution (Porcher et al. 2010). Most artisanal fishermen claimed that climate change exists because of divine causes, which contradicts the studies made by Rodrigues et al. (2009), Viegas (2014), and Seixas et al. (2014) that point to anthropogenic activities as the main cause of climate change and global warming. According to Oliveira et al. (2015), the low level of environmental literacy and the educational deficit are factors that lead to several misunderstandings when it refers to climate change and global warming. Half of the fishermen interviewed for this study had no level of schooling and mainly speak the local language (Emakua) and not the Portuguese language patent in the surveys. Part of the fishermen (33.3%) had knowledge about climate change through the media and also referred the radio as the main resource of local diffusion around the subject in question. As in the studies carried out by Viegas (2014) and Medeiros et al. (2014), most artisanal fishermen (78.6%, n = 11) answered that climate change was very worrisome, because of the reduction in fish catch. In fact, climate change is a concern for fishermen, because the increase and frequency of the extreme events will affect their safety and subsistence. For these communities, fish are currently decreasing when compared to 10 or 15 years ago, and they associate such a reduction with climate change. Concerning the risk perception, most of the fishermen, surveyed in this study, stated that their daily lives were directly affected by climate change. According to Medeiros et al. (2014), this perception results from the observation of constant variations in temperature, the increase in sun intensity, strong winds, and variations in rain and dry periods, resulting in scheduling activities difficulties. Fishermen associate these perceptions of the environmental variables with the variations in abundance, distribution, reproduction, growth, and survival of the fish (Medeiros et al. 2014). Usually, the perception of climate change risks can be increased when people live in areas near the coastline or in areas severely affected by extreme precipitation (Mello et al. 2012). The warming of oceanic waters is affecting fish and, consequently, fishing activity (IPCC 2014). This reduction has a direct influence on these communities and family’s income, since most fishermen have their fishing activity as the sole source of subsistence (Bertapeli 2009). Most of fishermen believed that climate change and global warming exist because of divine causes, or they claim to be “God’s thing,” thus people’s behavior change could not reduce climate change, and that such a reduction can only happen with the help of God. This way of thinking and facing climate change by fishermen must be understood as a cultural and religious heritage, and a reduced or absent contact with other type of information and a complete unfamiliarity with environmental literacy about climate change, its causes, and impacts (Hollweg et al. 2011; IPCC 2014). The surveying studies also demonstrated that the information on climate change, which is being widely produced worldwide, is still far from informing the public, including artisanal fishermen. In fact, the lack of literacy is still a factor of social exclusion. It is the responsibility of the educational system to decrease social inequalities and increase the effective adoption of appropriate pedagogical strategies (Martins 2011). A large percentage of the participants from the study conducted by Hussein (2018) stated that it is important to participate in local decisions related to climate change, in order to contribute the environment protection, taking care of the sea and being able mitigate its impacts (Bertapeli 2009).

Challenges from Climate Change to Global Policies in Developing Countries

The consequences and impacts of climate change on world are unevenly distributed, with developed countries with a large capacity to mitigate and adapt and low-income countries with very limited resources (e.g., countries from African continent). It is recognized that interactions between different drivers of ecosystem structure, composition, and function are complex, which makes the prediction of the impacts of climate change more difficult (Niang et al. 2014). In order to meet the challenges of climate change by the global population, there is the need for policies that focus on global, regional, and local issues. These measures must include the maintenance of linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity in these regions and the development of different strategies and approaches for the conservation of biodiversity and livelihoods. It may be hard to achieve climate change adaptation and the conservation of large-scale species and the ecosystems that contain them without incorporating the resident languages and the cultures they represent in biodiversity conservation strategies (UNESCO 2018).

Africa has gained experience in conceptualizing, planning, and, since 2007, beginning to implement and support adaptation activities, from local to national levels and across a growing range of sectors (Niang et al. 2014). A complex web of interacting barriers to local-level adaptation, manifesting from national to local scales, both constrains and highlights potential limits to adaptation. Africa’s urgent adaptation needs stem from the continent’s foremost sensitivity and vulnerability to climate change, together with its low levels of adaptive capacity (Ludi et al. 2012). While overall adaptive capacity is considered low in Africa because of economic, demographic, health, education, infrastructure, governance, and natural factors, levels vary within countries and across subregions, with some indication of higher adaptive capacity in North Africa and some other countries. Individual or household-level adaptive capacity depends on the ability of people to apply informed decisions to respond to climatic and other changes (Ludi et al. 2012). Equitable socioeconomic development in Africa may strengthen its resilience to several external impacts, including climate change.

Future Directions

There is a need to undertake more baseline studies on climate change, as there are a number of published studies on impacts, causes and consequences, mitigation, and adaptation measures; however, it is also important to gather information on what people know and what they think about climate change, to literate general population to understand the causes and effects of climate change and how their behavior can positively or negatively influence the intensification of global warming.

It is recommended that local academies, colleges focused on the environment, raise the awareness of the population, about the preservation of the environment in general, and about climate change in particular. It is also recommended to disseminate climate change in a language that is comprehensive to everyone, from academics to those without a schooling level, which in this case is the population that suffers most from the consequences of these impacts, because they do not perceive the message because of the complexity of language.

It is necessary that the media, especially the radio in Mozambique, which is one of the most comprehensive means of communication, being directly involved in the process of disseminating information around the global problem of Climate Change (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9) (Table 1).
Fig. 1

Schematic representation of conducted survey

Fig. 2

Level of schooling of fishermen

Fig. 3

Perception of climate change

Fig. 4

Perception on climate change and global warming

Fig. 5

Fishermen’s interpretation of global warming and climate change

Fig. 6

Level of concern of artisanal fishers in relation to global warming and climate change

Fig. 7

Perception of fishermen on the causes of global warming and climate change

Fig. 8

Perception on the risks of global warming and climate change

Fig. 9

Fishermen’s perception of those responsible for finding solutions to climate change scenarios

Table 1

Perception of fishermen on the relationship between climate change and global warming with human behavior





Do you think you could reduce the phenomena if people changed their behavior?







Do you consider to change some behavior because of these phenomena?




Do you consider to adopt some behavior because of these phenomena?







It is worthwhile to inform and participate in local decisions on the effects of the phenomena?








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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iracema Hussein
    • 1
  • Maria de Fátima Alves
    • 2
    • 3
  • Fernando Morgado
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Natural SciencesLúrio UniversityPembaMozambique
  2. 2.Centre for Functional EcologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.Department of Social Sciences and ManagementUniversidade AbertaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM) and Department of BiologyUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal

Section editors and affiliations

  • Luis R. Vieira
    • 1
  1. 1.CIIMAR & ICBASUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal