One Country’s Climate Change Strategy May Save Its Coasts

boats on the shore in Machangulo Mozambique

One Country’s Climate Change Strategy May Save Its Coasts

Mozambique makes sustainable coastal fishing a part of its plan to combat worsening climate change effects
S.H. IrbyOctober 3, 2016

With 2,700 km of exposed and highly vulnerable coastline along the Indian Ocean, Mozambique seems forever fixed at the edge of another major cyclone or tropical storm, each proving disastrous for the coast and its people. In 2000, the combined effect of Mozambique’s massive cyclones and flooding resulted in the displacement of more than 500,000 people. As new and more intense climate change effects bear down on the already vulnerable coast, Mozambicans face even more frequent and stronger floods, cyclones and sea level rise. At the same time, over 15 million coastal Mozambicans, composing some of the poorest communities in the world, have yet to find sufficient means to protect themselves physically and socially from the next big weather event. Pressure from climate change is building on the coast and within its communities. So how can Mozambique relieve it?

Women fishing, MozambiqueThe country has a natural means to defend its coast from climate change, sourced from its own shores and waters: There’s proven potential for coastal protection and climate resilience from coastal habitats, including mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass beds, all found throughout the coast. The richer these ecosystems, the stronger they can act as buffers against extreme weather that descends on the coast. Restoring these ecosystems could boost ecological resilience and cushion the blow of storm surge, erosion, wave damage, and other events. In turn, it’s equally important for coastal communities to develop social resilience to climate change, which can evolve as communities develop the self-governance and organization needed to protect coastal marine environments and manage their resources.

The richer these ecosystems, the stronger they can act as buffers against extreme weather that descends on the coast.

Mozambique’s national climate agenda, as laid out in the National Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy (NCCAMS), will prioritize boosting ecological and social resilience to climate change both locally and nationally, by recovering critical ecosystems and finding ways to make future coastal development low-carbon. This year, Mozambique’s National Institute for the Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture (IDEPA) invited Rare to become a part of those efforts, through our work in sustainable coastal fishing.

Coastal connections: How fishing factors into Mozambique’s fight against climate change

Coastal fishing is a massive sector in Mozambique, one that composes 99 percent of local fishing jobs and ties directly into the country’s resilience against climate change. In part, the state of coastal fishing goes hand in hand with the state of Mozambique’s natural defenses against climate change: Unsustainable fishing and overfishing in coastal waters degrades habitats, threatens area biodiversity, and depletes fish stocks. Today, 88 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited or overexploited in Mozambique.

In every sustainable fishing program Rare carries out, it’s essential to protect coastal habitats, the natural resources they hold, and the people that depend on them. So far, with our partners, we’ve made headway in sustainable coastal fishing in Mozambique, Brazil, Belize, Indonesia and the Philippines. We promote conservation and sustainable use of marine ecosystems through a formula that tackles the overfishing issues common to open-access coastal fishing, and rethinks fishery management.

In this formula, Rare pairs managed fishing access with marine reserves, making sustainable use and marine conservation part of a single solution. In managed access areas, local fishers are granted exclusive fishing rights. These zones are placed in or along marine reserves, which protect the habitats where fish stocks swim, breed, feed and live. Doing so enables fishers to reduce pressure on their fisheries and these habitats, while looking ahead at catching more bountiful fish stocks, giving time and space for fish to recover in nearby marine reserves.

Throughout implementation of managed access and marine reserves, Rare is also exploring ways to make the process of fishing itself more sustainable for coastal communities, through efforts like climate-friendly cold storage technology. A key initiative within our Mozambique program, this technology relies on renewable energy, and will prototype a cold storage method — super-chilled brine — that does not rely on ice. This will bring cold storage and reduced fishing waste to communities that don’t currently have the opportunity, and can increase fish product value without requiring fishers to catch more.

In Mozambique, six local fishing extensionists from the IDEPA are working with Rare to build community knowledge and support around our sustainable fishing approach. These leaders, called Rare Fellows, communicate the ways the relationship between coastal communities and their natural resources must change, so that they can continue to rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, their food security, and protection against climate change. For the Fellows, fundamental and pervasive behavior change among communities is key to helping this relationship thrive, rather than crumble to depleted fish stocks and defenseless shores.

...the relationship between coastal communities and their natural resources must change, so that they can continue to rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, their food security, and protection against climate change.

Rare Fellows Edmundo A.Q. Pinto, Anuar Amade, Honório dos Santos, Inês Mahumane, Adelino Silane and Isídro Intave are leading Pride campaigns that bring coastal people together to discuss the importance of the marine environment in their own lives, and provide ways that they might make positive changes to their interactions with the ocean and its resources. Rare and the IDEPA provide the tools, guidance and technical support for communities to design and adopt sustainable fishing through managed access and marine reserves, zones which they create and govern on their own terms.

For Rare, launching the Mozambique program with the national government as our implementing partner also presents a unique opportunity for national scale: Early and direct collaboration with the government primes the country to expand the concept along the entire coast, making use of capacity that Rare will help build during its time on the ground.

As more communities come together in dialogue, make a fundamental switch in perspective — to seeing the marine environment as something to safeguard rather than solely use up — and act on that new perspective through the adoption of managed access and marine reserves, coastal ecosystems will have a real chance to rebound. And as these communities self-organize to run their own managed access areas, they can channel their newly formed social cohesion in all areas of coastal life, including collectively responding to the challenges of climate change. When its people and nature thrive, Mozambique can be ready.