Although there is a ready market and willing buyers from both local and abroad, Shaffi Issa is an unhappy man.
He is a sea cucumber fisherman in Kilifi who has just returned from his daily activity. His basket is almost empty as he has caught only one sea cucumber.
“On a good day, I would get up to forty pieces of sea cucumbers, but these days I get one or even none in a day. On a good day I get just five or six pieces. I sell the little catch I have and call it a day. If I don’t catch anything I count my losses,” Issa said.
He depends on the high fishing seasons to maximize his profits but the effects of climate change are being felt on the ground since the number of fish being trapped in a day are way below expectations.
He attributed to adoption of ring net fishing as a lead factor to decline in fishing at the coastal lines.
“When fish nets are pulled close to the coral reefs, they destroy the coral reefs on their way making the fish move to other areas for breeding,” he said.
On a bad day, he dubs as a tour operator and shares his sentiments on low tourism in the Indian Ocean.
“We used to take tourists for snorkeling and deep-diving but due to loss of coral reefs and the damage, the fish are longer there. This has led to low turnout of tourists,” he stated.
He emphasized that climate change has led to the extinction of some species of fish in the Indian Ocean.
His sentiments were shared by another fisherman Ngala Chaka who said the effects are being felt since there is a decline in all species of fish and decline in tourism. He added that the seasons are now unpredictable causing low numbers of fish in the ocean. He said there is a loss of some species of fish that have migrated to other areas.
Captain Shallo another fisherman who is also the chairman of Kilifi boat operators shared a similar story of how extreme climate change impacted negatively on the ecosystem, his source of livelihood. According to Shallo, climate change has led to abnormal patterns in fishing seasons.
“In recent years there has been a change in fishing seasons which may come early or late than expected. The fishing seasons are influenced by changes of climate change,” Shallo said.
Shallo raised concern on the strong winds which have affected the fishing industry along the coastal lines.
“Strong winds have led to the change on how we fish and worse, marine pollution. The strong winds from the ocean come unexpectedly and to some extents fishermen get lost in the deep sea never to be found, “Shallo says.
He said coral reefs bleaching and destruction has made the different species of fish to migrate to new areas for breeding and in search for food.
He pleaded with fishermen to venture into the deep sea rather than the coral reefs surroundings to ensure that small fingerlings mature before they are fished as juveniles.
He added that flash flooding occurring over and over without warning causes soil erosion which destroys the coral reefs by breaking them. The mangrove forests in the shallow ends are not spared either.
As a tourist boat operator, Shallo often gets unsettled by the rising heights of sea levels from melted ice caps. He said hotels will be submerged in coming years if the levels continue to rise.
According to Shallo, there will be increased numbers of island refugees because islands in the oceans are likely to sink in the near future if not already.
Dr Robert Mokua, a climate change expert in Kilifi lecturing Pwani University science students said the rising levels of water in the oceans has caused adverse effects on the fishing industry.
“Rise in temperature increases levels of Carbon di Oxide (CO2) in water increasing salinity which causes bleaching of coral reefs, the feeding and breeding grounds for fish. Erosion into the ocean may also cover the coral reefs hindering fish from accessing their food,”Mokua noted.
He noted that erosion may sweep away mangrove forests causing fish to swim to deeper parts of the ocean in search of food.
According to Mokua migration of fish into the deep sea causes a crisis since the larger fish species to predate on small fish causing the extinction of some species.
“Climate change has led to change of seasons. During high tide seasons, there is a lot of pollution in the ocean which causes fish to migrate to the deep seas. When low tides are expected, high tides may be happening thereby hampering fishing. Hurricanes and cyclones also affect fishing since they move to safer areas away from prone areas,” Mokua added.
He noted that there is a lot that needs to be done to mitigate the effects of climate change in the oceans.
“We need to take the responsibility to curb climate change by planting trees and more mangroves which can absorb carbon, four times a normal tree can. Global funds should consider giving more funds to help in the fight against climate change,” Mokua noted.