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A Changing Climate through a Fisher’s Eye

Image of view of northeastern Puerto Rico
A view of northeastern Puerto Rico. (NOAA)

Like coral reefs worldwide, coral ecosystems in Puerto Rico are experiencing increased pressures from a changing climate. Rising ocean temperatures lead to more coral bleaching events and death, and these losses would be devastating for Puerto Rican fishers and their communities that have relied on coral reefs and fisheries as sources of food and income for generations. These fishers have an interest in conserving coral reefs and are at the front lines of the changing environment.

In 2016, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program awarded funding to the University of New Haven to assess the socioeconomic impacts of climate change on Puerto Rico’s coral reef fisheries. The research team, led by Dr. Tarsila Seara, surveyed over 200 local fishers across the island and gathered the following information.

Spiny lobster is an important fishery species in Puerto Rico, particularly in the eastern and western areas of the island. (NOAA)
Spiny lobster is an important fishery species in Puerto Rico, particularly in the eastern and western areas of the island. (NOAA)
  • Most of the fishers consider themselves full-time commercial fishers instead of part-time or recreational fishers.
  • They highlight spiny lobster, queen conch, and multiple species of fish, including king mackerel, as important fisheries.
  • A majority of the fishers believe that the climate is changing in Puerto Rico, and they are concerned.
  • Fishers already attribute changes in their practices, such as adjusting where they fish and the gear they use, to climate change.
  • Most of the surveyed fishers feel that the species they fish are affected by pollution, coral bleaching, and increasing ocean temperatures.
  • Most fishers want to work with the government to manage coral reef fisheries, but they do not see a way to do so.

The results of the survey show that Puerto Rican fishers are passionate about their work, concerned about the effects of climate change on coral reefs and related fisheries, and ready to work with others to find solutions. Overall, the study provides important insight into the role that local fishers can play in comprehensive coral reef management.


For more information on the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program’s funding opportunities, visit https://coralreef.noaa.gov/conservation/fundingOpps.html.