Pescadores, conhecimento local e mudanças costeiras no litoral Português

  • Delicado A
  • Schmidt L
  • Guerreiro S
 et al. 
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Abstract

Climate change is one of the major challenges human societies are facing. Coastal communities are particularly vulnerable, as their homes and livelihoods are increasingly exposed to risks from coastal erosion and sea level rise. Fishermen that live on and from the coast have a privileged perspective of coastal changes. As a result of their activity, fishermen have a knowledge that, despite not being technical, is based on experience and is local-specific. In spite of being well documented in scientific literature, the role of local knowledge - lay, ecological, indigenous or even stakeholder knowledge, as it has been diversely described in the literature - in planning and environmental related decisions remains unclear. In Portugal, this is an issue that remains largely unexplored and there are only a few studies within the social sciences that focus on fishing communities. In this sense, this study intends to contribute to an issue that is still in a very embryonic state in Portugal. Based on evidence from a set of in-depth interviews with local fishermen in three areas of the Portuguese coast - Vagueira in the Aveiro region in the north, Costa da Caparica in the Lisbon area and Quarteira in the southern coast of Algarve - this paper examines the perceptions of fishermen about coastal and climate changes, coastal planning and interventions, public participation and their role on coastal management processes. These coastal towns, all former fishing villages, have already experienced threatening situations (storm surges, coastal inundation of inhabited areas) and are marked by strong coastal defences: groynes, seawalls and regular sand renourishments. The analysis of the interviews revealed some important results. The first is that fishermen, due to their activity, their proximity to the sea and the fact that there is a large intergenerational reproduction (the activity is passed over from parents to their children) have a very rich and multifaceted knowledge of the sea and the coast. They have a clear notion of coastal evolution, an accurate memory of past events and a comprehensive understanding of coastal changes and their multiple causes. They acknowledge that, despite the fact that coastal defences built in recent decades have solved the problem in some places, they are also a problem and the cause of erosion in nearby coastal stretches. The analysis also showed some differences between case studies: while in Vagueira and Costa da Caparica fishermen are critical of hard defence structures, in Quarteira they seem to be fairly satisfied with the effects produced by the defence structures and sand renourishments. Regardless of that, in all three places, fishermen point out alternative technical solutions based on their practical knowledge of the specific areas. They admit that while their knowledge is not scientific - and therefore may not have the same value as expert knowledge - it is still worthy. They emphasize the practical and place-specific nature of their knowledge, which adds value to the more general knowledge of experts, and thus should be taken into account. But, according to the fishermen in these coastal stretches, this has not been the case. And we concluded that not only their knowledge is not incorporated into technical solutions, but they are also not consulted about coastal management decisions that directly affect them or their activity. We posit that, on the one hand, fishermen come from a traditionally disadvantaged social standing that has been made worse by EU fishing policies, which since 1986 have been weakening this activity in Portugal. The social devaluation of this activity seems to have been internalized by the fishermen and seems to translate into a low status self-perception. Thus, despite being aware of the relevance of their knowledge, they have not been able to make this knowledge available to experts and decision makers. Fishermen only show some capacity to intervene when represented in associations or unions, which highlights the importance of collective action and marks an important difference between our three case studies, and may also explain the state of greater frailness of fishing in Vagueira, the only place where they are not collectively represented. In addition to this inferior social position, there seems to be a certain “cultural incompatibility” between fishermen and experts, almost as if they spoke different languages altogether, making more difficult the dialogue between the two sides and the incorporation of local knowledge into technical decisions. enfrenta atualmente. As comunidades costeiras são particularmente vulneráveis, uma vez que estão crescentemente expostas aos riscos de erosão costeira e de subida do nível do mar. Os pescadores que vivem na e da costa têm uma visão privilegiada das mudanças costeiras e, em resultado da sua atividade, detêm um conhecimento que, apesar de não ser técnico, se baseia na experiência e é específico ao local. Em Portugal, este é um tema ainda pouco explorado e são raros os estudos das ciências sociais sobre as comunidades piscatórias. Este estudo pretende assim ser um contributo para uma temática que se encontra num estado ainda muito incipiente no nosso país. Para tal, analisamos os discursos de uma amostra de entrevistas em profundidade realizadas a pescadores de três zonas da costa portuguesa - Vagueira, Costa da Caparica e Quarteira. Os resultados revelam a existência de um conhecimento específico e profundo acerca da evolução da costa, das mudanças costeiras e das suas causas. Concluímos, através dos seus discursos, que os pescadores compreendem a complexidade das questões costeiras e a multiplicidade de fatores e usos que a influenciam. São também críticos em relação às opções técnicas que têm sido tomadas. Apesar de se verificarem algumas diferenças entre as três zonas de estudo na análise que os entrevistados fazem da eficácia das obras de proteção costeira, todos são capazes de propor medidas alternativas para mitigar o avanço o mar e a erosão costeira. Verifica-se ainda que este saber local não só não é incorporado nas soluções técnicas de gestão costeira, como os pescadores não são consultados aquando da tomada de decisões que os afetam diretamente. Tal poderá dever-se, por um lado, a uma desvalorização social da própria atividade pesqueira o que terá originado uma auto-avaliação negativa do valor social dos pescadores, refletindo-se numa incapacidade de reivindicação, só parcialmente ultrapassada quando estes são representados em associações ou sindicatos. Para além deste estatuto social inferior, parece haver também uma certa “incompatibilidade cultural” e de linguagem entre pescadores e especialistas, dificultando ainda mais o diálogo entre os dois e a incorporação do conhecimento local em decisões técnicas.

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Authors

  • Ana Delicado

  • Luísa Schmidt

  • Susana Guerreiro

  • Carla Gomes

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