Impacts of Natural Disasters on Subjective Vulnerability to Climate Change: A Study of Puerto Rican Fishers’ Perceptions after Hurricanes Irma & Maria

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Investigating people’s levels of subjective vulnerability to change can help elucidate important aspects of adaptive capacity to impacts. This is particularly relevant in coastal communities with high exposure to natural disasters, such as those in the Caribbean region, especially given projections of increased frequency and severity of storms as a consequence of climate change. In this study, Puerto Rican fishers’ perceptions of the effects of climate change on their fishing activity were compared before and after two major hurricanes severely impacted the island in the fall of 2017. Data was collected through the use of surveys conducted in 12 different fishing communities in Puerto Rico at two different time periods: pre-storms (August 2016–January 2017) (N = 212) and post-storms (May–June 2018) (N = 75). Results show that fishers demonstrated higher concern in the post-storms period for climate change in general as well as for other environmental changes attributed to climate change, particularly the impacts of storms and increased air temperature. Our analyses also investigate factors influencing fishers’ concerns about climate change. Comparisons between fishers’ perceptions in the pre- and post-storms periods allow for an increased understanding of the impacts of extreme events on fishers’ subjective vulnerability to climate change and other environmental transformations. These changes in perception are likely to influence fishers’ future adaptative behavior and they provide opportunities for the implementation of collaborative strategies to increase awareness of climate change impacts and develop strategies to maximize climate change resilience in fishing communities.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Coastal Management