Exploring fishermen’s local knowledge and perceptions in the face of climate change: the case of coastal Tamil Nadu, India

  • Devendraraj MadhanagopalEmail author
  • Sarmistha Pattanaik


Fishers’ local knowledge and their perceptions of climate change are increasingly recognized by researchers and international institutions. However, in India, limited regional studies are available to understand the fishers’ local knowledge, and a crucial question which largely remained unaddressed has been how fishers perceive the relevance of their local knowledge systems in the face of climate change. Provided this background, this paper aims to explore the fishermen’s local knowledge and their climate perceptions in the face of climate change. This paper has employed the data that were obtained by in-depth interviews and focus-group discussions with the small-scale fishermen of three highly vulnerable fishing villages of Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu. The marine fishers across this coast were the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster, several major cyclones, and various weather and climate events for over the last four decades. Key results show (1) fishermen perceive multiple aberrations and anomalies in the weather and climate patterns for over the previous three to four decades, particularly after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster. (2) The next finding is contrary to the conventional understandings, in which we have found that the fishermen are increasingly felt and experienced that their local knowledge is no longer adequately relevant in the face of climate change. Thus, for promoting the adaptive capacity of fishers, this paper has suggested that fishermen’s perceptions and their expectations should be appropriately recognized and there is a strong need to provide scientific assistance to the fishermen through proper channels to respond to climate change impacts.


Fishermen Local knowledge Climate change Climate perceptions Tamil Nadu India 



The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions to improve the final version of the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of Technology BombayMumbaiIndia

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