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Winds of Change


"The seasonal phenomena that once existed-the normal storm surges, the certainty that every year in a particular period there would be a particular type of meteorological event-are impossible to rely on today. They are completely preposterous. The seasonal characteristics that made up each year were a part of the traditional knowledge of the fisherman." - Gaetano Urzì, president of the Cooperativa dei Pescatori del Golfo di Catania

Fishing communities have a great deal at stake in our collective response to climate change. Marine ecosystems have been experiencing rapid and large-scale shifts linked to changing weather patterns, water chemistry, and seasonal conditions. As the rate and unpredictability of ecological change continues to intensify, fishers who spend every day of every year engaging closely with the marine environment will be the first to notice and to feel the effects.

In the lagoon of Orbetello on the coast of Tuscany, warming water temperatures have shifted the timing of the yearly eel migration-an important part of many Italians' Christmas dinner-from December into January. In Catania on the east side of Sicily, shifting seasonal patterns makes it hard for traditional fishermen to "read" the weather like they once did, and to make predictions about fish behavior. In Noli, a town on the coast of Liguria, the decline of many local fish species has led fishermen to diversify their operations, with some opening up "fishing tourism" side-businesses. However, the growing privatization of fishing rights locks fishers into systems that hinder adaptive responses to these environmental changes. In the Northeast US, many fish like black sea bass are shifting their range northward as the water warms, but fishing catch shares remain further south.


During Terra Madre 2017, the Winds of Change workshop is dedicated to understanding how fishers are responding to the insecurities they are facing and the kinds of adaptive strategies they are employing. It will start with a short presentation of stories collected from Italian fishermen about the kinds of environmental changes they are observing. From there, participants will be encouraged to share their stories and observations in other parts of the globe, and the ways in which they are adapting.


The rest of the session will be dedicated to discussing whether fishers can and should have a voice in the conversation about climate change. If so, what would that look like? How would we collect data, and would it help inform policy or science? Can climate change be leveraged to advocate for nimbler systems of fisheries management? What role, if any, can fishers play in advocating for that change?


The ecological relationships and human elements of fisheries have long been neglected in favor of conventional fisheries management, in which scientific knowledge is assumed to be "more true". But human and ecological systems profoundly influence one another, and successful adaptation to climate change will require a deeper understanding of and more nuanced attention to traditional practices and fishers' knowledge. In this workshop, we will begin to explore how that knowledge can be shared.


The Winds of Change session will take place on Thursday, September 22 from 14h-16h in the Slow Fish thematic space. It will be followed by a session of False Solutions to Climate Change which are currently being promoted by powerful actors.

Author: Emily Farr


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