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The economic and social impacts of environmental change on fishing towns and coastal communities: a historical case study of Geraldton, Western Australia

Tull, M., Metcalf, S.J. and Gray, H. (2016) The economic and social impacts of environmental change on fishing towns and coastal communities: a historical case study of Geraldton, Western Australia. ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil, 73 (5). pp. 1437-1446.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsv196
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Abstract

For decades, many Australian coastal communities have been changing, in varying degrees, from traditional “fishing towns” to “mining”, “tourism”, or “retirement” towns. However, environmental changes, such as climate change, have increased the vulnerability of these communities and their capacity to continue to successfully adapt is unknown. A framework for the assessment of socio-ecological vulnerability is used to provide information on the response to change in Geraldton, Western Australia. Geraldton has traditionally been a port and fishing town and has recently become a hub for the expanding mining industry. An innovative historical assessment of adaptive capacity using sustainable livelihoods analysis with indicators of social, economic, human, financial, physical, and natural capital is used to calculate socio-ecological vulnerability over time. The framework integrates adaptive capacity with environmental change, resource dependence, and the socio-economic importance of the fished species during four census years: 1921, 1954, 1981, and 2011. The earlier years are characterized by high adaptive capacity and low socio-ecological vulnerability in keeping with strong economic growth and low unemployment rates following the First and Second World Wars. The years 1981 and 2011 showed markedly higher socio-ecological vulnerability and lower adaptive capacities. This result was due to progressively greater exposure to climate change and the high socio-economic importance of fished species, as well as relatively poor physical, social, and natural capital. With continuing environmental and economic change, the fishing industry and the broader Geraldton population is likely to become increasingly vulnerable. Proactive rather than passive adaptation may speed the recovery and reduce a decline in the fishing industry and local economies. The paper briefly discusses potential adaptation in Geraldton which may be useful as a guideline for other coastal communities.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © International Council for the Exploration of the Sea 2015.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/32283
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