Transformation of coastal communities: where is the marine sector heading?
van Putten, I and Metcalf, S and Frusher, S and Marshall, N and Tull, M, Transformation of coastal communities: where is the marine sector heading?, Australasian Journal of Regional Studies, 20, (2) pp. 286-324. ISSN 1324-0935 (2014) [Refereed Article]
Much has been said about migration to coastal areas and the consequent change in coastal community demographics. Even though coastal communities are changing they are often still colloquially referred to as ‘fishing towns’ which is the presumed dominant economic activity. However, the commercial fishing sector is contracting and communities are re-orienting to other marine sectors such as marine tourism and aquaculture, and some non-marine sectors often with a net loss of employment opportunities. Our aim is to examine the additional pressure of climate change on coastal communities typically referred to as ‘fishing towns’. Climate change may prove to be the ‘tipping point’ for both the fishing fleet and coastal fishing towns. The purpose of this paper is not to examine the details of climate change -which have been documented elsewhere- but to identify the effects on fishing towns. Our approach is to consider a coastal community’s vulnerability to climate change in the marine environment in the context of its size, demographics, and economic characteristics. Small coastal communities characterised by an older demographic, high unemployment, a declining commercial fishing fleet, high participation in the marine sector, and limited local sea-based or land-based employment opportunities are assumed to be especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the marine environment. Together with qualitative survey results from 66 community members in three typical coastal communities across Australia, we provide insight into trends and change in these coastal communities. Our results suggest that the effects of climate change such as declines in fish abundances and coastal inundations, are likely to affect small coastal communities that were previously ‘fishing towns’. Moreover, transformations of structure and function of communities are likely to occur as the fishing component of communities’ declines further. The future of coastal communities in Australia is likely to look very different.