What is the issue?
Around the world, sheries employ millions of
people and make substantial contributions to
national economies and diets. In Ghana, small
scale sheries contribute 70-80% of the total
sh catch and provide a livelihood for about 2
million people, including around 135,000 small
scale shers (AGRER, 2011; NAFAG, 2014).
Furthermore, sh consumption provides 60% of
the nation’s protein requirements.
Hampered by minimal investments and limited
use of technologies, the small scale sheries
sector in Ghana is considered very vulnerable
and poorly adaptable to climate change
(Macfadyen and Allison, 2009). The sector is
highly dependent on natural marine productivity,
which in turn is impacted by climate
change. However, there is currently a limited
understanding of the present and anticipated
impacts (FAO, 2008; WorldFish Center, 2007),
which hinders the development of policies
to ensure that sheries continue to support
livelihoods and food security. In this context,
the IDRC-funded Climate change adaptation
research and capacity development in Ghana
project has provided evidence-based knowledge
to support the development of interventions that
could minimize climatic impacts on poor shery
communities in coastal areas.
What did we do?
The study covered the coastal area of Accra,
where small scale shing is the dominant
source of livelihood, especially for indigenous
communities. The project analyzed past
and future changes in seasonal patterns for
atmospheric temperature, rainfall, surface
• In the coastal area of Accra, Ghana,
sh catch has signicantly decreased
over the last two decades as average
sea surface temperatures have steadily
risen. For example, the catch of round
sardinella, a climate-sensitive species,
decreased by 75% between 1992 and
• Fishers are becoming highly indebted
due to reduced sh catch, increasing
risks and growing investment costs.
With limited alternatives for livelihood,
small scale shers are highly vulnerable
to the impacts of climate change. New
livelihood options need to be identied
and training will need to be provided.
• The end of the rainy season traditionally
signals the start of the main shing
season, but this is becoming
unpredictable due to variability in
rainfall distribution patterns, increasing
the risks of investment for shers and
exacerbating poverty and indebtedness.
• The Marine Fisheries Research Division
(MFRD) and meteorological authorities
should intensify data collection and
monitoring activities, to improve
forecasting about the onset and
productivity of the shing season, and
should make this information available
O. Pabi, S.N.A. Codjoe, N.A. Sah and
I. Appeaning Addo
Climate change linked
to failing sheries in
© O. Pabi and J.E.K. Akubia
temperature of seawater and sh catch. A
mathematical model was then applied to use
seawater temperature as an indicator of sh food
Three sh species of commercial importance
were studied, all of which have different
sensitivities to atmospheric and seawater
temperature changes. These include round
sardinella, at sardinella and anchovy. The
research team also conducted interviews with
a number of key stakeholders to seek their
knowledge, perceptions and observations on
changes in climate, impacts on sh catch and
related activities, and existing coping strategies.
Interviewed stakeholders include representatives
from the National Canoe Fishermen Council,
National Fisheries Association of Ghana
(NAFAG), MFRD, shermen and women working
in sh preservation, processing and sales.
What did we learn?
• There has been a steady rise in atmospheric
and sea water temperatures since the 1960s,
with the latter increasing by an average of
• The main shing season, which lasts for an
average of three months, contributes up to
60% of total annual sh catch. Since the
early 1990s, however, sh catch has been
steadily declining. For instance, the annual
catch of round sardinella has decreased by
nearly 75% between the years 1992 and 2010.
• Fishers are losing income and falling into
debt, due to reduced sh catch, rising
investment costs, and increasing risk of
lost investment. Alternative livelihoods are
limited, making shers more vulnerable to
the negative impacts of climate on sheries.
In response, the National Canoe Fishermen
Council plans to initiate a lending scheme
to assist its members in ensuring that daily
needs are met.
• Fish catch is strongly related to surface water
and atmospheric temperatures; generally,
the lower the temperatures, the higher the
sh catch. This does vary somewhat across
species, however: the catch for round
sardinella peaks when sea water temperature
is at its lowest, the catch for anchovy peaks
when sea water temperature is at its highest
during the main shing season, yet no visible
pattern has been observed between sea water
Figure 1: Fish catch generally peaks when the surface temperature of sea water is lowest during the
shing season (with the exception of some species, such as anchovy, for which the opposite occurs).
This is indicative of the sensitivity of sh populations to climate change
Round SardFlat SardAnchovy
Sea surface temperature
Sea surface temperature (°C)
In the coastal area of Accra small scale shing
is the dominant source of livelihood
© O. Pabi and J.E.K. Akubia
Banks are now more willing to grant them loans,
since repayment levels tend be higher when
individuals are subject to group pressure. The
cooperative initiative also brings the benets of
a social network, helping the women to expand
“It is not only about the loans. Getting sh from
other places too is important and you need to
make arrangements with shermen in other
places to get sh at a good price. Through the
group connections we are able to purchase
sh from other areas. Now that we are going to
start using the sh smoking facilities that RIPS is
constructing we will be able to preserve greater
quantities of sh at a time and sell it over a longer
period of time.”
Awonye, Fishmonger, Ussher Town
What are the policy
• The National Canoe Fishermen Association
and the MFRD need to collaborate to
sensitize and educate shers about the
impacts of climate change on small scale
sheries, and the need to reduce vulnerability
by diversifying their livelihood base. Efforts
should build on the shers’ knowledge to
enable more accurate predictions about the
start and productivity of the shing season.
• Local governments should initiate programs
to train shers in alternative livelihoods,
in order to reduce their dependence on
small scale sheries. This should be done
in collaboration with relevant NGOs,
government agencies and the private sector.
• The MFRD and the Meteorological
Department should intensify data collection
temperature and catch for at sardinella.
Therefore, changing sea water temperatures is
expected to impact the catch of these species
• Fishers traditionally use the end of the rainy
season to predict the start of the shing
season. However, increasing variability
in rainfall patterns is making it difcult to
forecast the onset and productivity of the
Stories of change
The coastal community of Ussher Town in
Accra is looking to minimize the impact of
dwindling sh catch on livelihoods, drawing
on the research ndings from this project.
The research team at the Regional Institute for
Population Studies (RIPS) has been supporting the
community through the construction of two sh
smoking facilities, to improve sh preservation
and secure better prices for sh during the off-
season. This will improve incomes, especially
for women, who are involved in the preservation
portion of the value chain.
The Ussher Town Community Climate Change
Club (UTCCC) has been created and includes
over 150 community members. As a result of the
club’s activities, there is increased awareness of
climate change impacts on shing livelihoods
and the need for community mobilization as
a means to reduce the vulnerability of those
who depend on sh. For instance, women
who in the past worked individually from their
homes have since started working together in
a cooperative, which has a range of benets.
Fish catch in the study area has decreased
signicantly over the last 20 years
© Moses Melphis Abaidoo
Figure 2: The catch for round sardinella and
anchovy peaks when atmospheric temperature is
lowest. It is not clear how temperature variation
impacts the catch for at sardinella.
Round SardFlat SardAnchovy
Minimum atmospheric temperature (°C)
and monitoring activities to enhance capacity
for accurate forecasting and communication
relating to the start and anticipated
productivity of the shing season.
• Additional research is needed to build
understanding of the barriers limiting the
adoption of alternative livelihoods by
sher communities. This would inform
interventions and incentives that could help
people reduce their dependence on small
scale sheries as a source of livelihood.
• There is a need to investigate community
and scientic knowledge in order to develop
indicators and strategies for monitoring,
forecasting and communicating the start and
productivity of shing seasons. Improved
forecasting will enable shers to maximize
their catch during the shing season and
reduce their risk of lost investment in the
• Further studies are needed on the impacts
of climate change on small scale sheries
in other coastal shing areas, which have
different circumstances and dynamics. This
will inform broader policy frameworks to
reduce the sensitivity of small scale sheries
to climate change at the national level.
Need more information?
Dr Pabi Opoku
Institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies
University of Ghana
Prof Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe
Regional Institute for Population Studies,
University of Ghana
AGRER. (2011) Final Technical Report: Formulation of
Implementing Text of the Draft Fisheries Legislation in
Benin and Review and Up-Dating of the Marine Fisheries
Master Plan in Ghana. Brussels, Belgium: ACP Fish II.
FAO. (2008) Climate change implications for sheries and
aquaculture. In: FAO, The State of World Fisheries and
Aquaculture 2008. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, pp. 87-91.
WorldFish Center. (2007) The Threat to Fisheries and
Aquaculture from Climate Change. Penang, Malaysia:
The WorldFish Center. http://bit.ly/1wSwVHO.
Macfadyen, G. and Allison, E. (2009) Climate Change,
Fisheries, Trade and Competitiveness: Understanding
Impacts and Formulating Responses for Commonwealth
Small States. London, UK: Commonwealth Secretariat.
NAFAG. Background. National Fisheries Association of
Ghana. Available from: http://bit.ly/1GOqNoi.
NAFAG. Types of Fisheries. National Fisheries Association of
Ghana. Available from: http://bit.ly/1tGe90c.
This brief reports on research supported by the International Development Research Centre’s Climate Change and Water program, with
funds from the Government of Canada’s fast start climate nance: www.idrc.ca/ccw.
Produced by WRENmedia in January 2015.
International Development Research Centre
ntre de recherches pour le développement international
Round SardFlat SardAnchovy
Figure 3: Fishers use the end of the rainy
season as an indicator for the start of the
shing season. Variability in the timing of
rainfall cessation has introduced
uncertainty in sher predictions.