JASH – AYURDA
Climate change and biodiversity loss are the defining crises of our time. The ocean regulates climate, supports biodiversity and provides substantial societal benefit through a myriad of ecosystem services. Approximately 3.3 billion people rely on fish for ~20% of their protein intake and nearly 60 million people are employed in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture, most in the global South. Yet the oceans and viability of marine fisheries are under threat from rapid declines in biodiversity and intensifying human impacts, and increasingly unsustainable and unequitable fisheries. The vital importance of improving ocean health is well-recognised in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Convention on Biological Diversity, and in the current Decades of Ocean Science and Ecosystem Restoration.
In India, marine biodiversity is interwoven with cultural diversity and livelihoods. The small-scale fishing sector ranges from semi-industrial boats crewed by multiple fishers that land their catch in harbours further away from local communities and sell to larger markets, to more traditional one person boats that land catches on beaches, selling directly to purchasers for marketing and processing.
Fisheries have an important gender dimension. Globally, 14% of those involved in fishing are women who work in processing and marketing of fish, while in the case of small-scale fisheries, nearly half of workers are female. In India, men are primarily involved in the catching of fish, while women are concentrated in post-harvest activities. Shifts in landings from beaches to harbours have reduced access to fish for women, pushing them to the fringes of the value-chain.
Indian marine fisheries face a range of challenges and must adapt to and mitigate several systemic shocks. Climate change and associated changes in weather patterns impact fishing; traditional knowledge on knowing when and where to fish is no longer adequate and species availability has undergone changes. Over exploitation of available stocks, and a lack of monitoring and enforcement continues to threaten the viability of Indian marine fisheries as a sustainable resource. The COVID-19 crisis particularly impacted India’s poorest, including the low-income fishing communities, fisher women and migrant labour working on semi-industrial boats.
Our international research teams are focusing on documenting the response to these challenges with the aim to develop technological and social/policy solutions to mitigate the impact of these shocks. We are highly interdisciplinary, and encompass expertise in the social and environmental science, engineering and computer science, and specifically in fisheries, remote sensing and satellite imagery. Projects we are currently involved in include:
Food, gender, enterprise: leveraging interdisciplinarity for sustainable small-scale fisheries: Funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering Frontiers Programme from Seeds to Needs
This highly innovative project focuses on small-scale fisheries in Kerala, India, where fishing communities are experiencing increasing climate events, declining catches, biodiversity loss, and the lingering effects of COVID-19. Here women play crucial roles in post-harvest processing and marketing of fish but remain excluded from decision-making. The project leverages engineering and social science methodologies to create understanding and knowledge of the social and technological solutions that are needed to enhance capacities for adaptation and develop resilience to these multiple systemic shocks. We draw on multiple data sources to understand trends in fish stocks in relation to climate change and biodiversity change indicators to develop data-based solutions. Through social impact surveys and participatory methods, we involve fisher men and women to develop technological and social/policy solutions that will integrate local community knowledge, embed gender equality, and encourage co-development of adaptation strategies. We combine engineering and social science data at multiple scales to develop an ecosystem services model that highlights the complex relations between human, animal and ecological health to identify points of intervention and investment to enhance fishing community resilience to the biodiversity crisis. The project also aims to facilitate the development of an international network and framework for developing adaptation strategies in small-scale fisheries globally.