Resilience of coastal fishing communities in times of crisis

Published: 26 August 2021
Last edited: 26 August 2021
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In 2020, Honduras was not only affected by the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic but saw also massive disruptions and destruction caused by back-to-back hurricanes, Eta and Iota. The compounded effects of this double-crisis had major impacts on coastal communities.

Still, communities part of Rare’s community-driven Fish Forever program [GP1] showcased resilience towards these impacts, coping comparatively well. Coastal communities supported each other, demonstrating solidarity and strong social cohesion, and leveraged their healthy fisheries and money saved through Fish Forever’s savings clubs to cover income losses and other emergencies, ensure local food security, and recover. The crises also led to new opportunities through local entrepreneurship and a stronger understanding across local stakeholders of the importance of a healthy ocean for local livelihoods and food security.



Central America
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Disaster risk reduction
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Food security
Gender mainstreaming
Health and human wellbeing
Indigenous people
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Resilience and disaster risk management
Loss of Biodiversity
Tropical cyclones / Typhoons
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
Sendai Framework
Target 4: Reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030


Omoa, Cortés, Honduras | Omoa, Puerto Cortés, Santa Fe, Iriona, Guanaja, El Porvenir
Santa Fé, Colón, Honduras
Iriona, Colón, Honduras
Puerto Cortés, Cortés, Honduras
Guanaja, Bay Islands, Honduras
El Porvenir, Atlántida, Honduras


The solution aims to strengthen the resilience of coastal communities to external shocks that affect their wellbeing. As these shocks intensify as our climate changes and our environment degrades more, it's imperative to build resilience at all levels—social, environmental and economic.

The COVID pandemic along with hurricanes Eta and Iota brought various challenges to communities across Honduras’s north coast. Disruptions along the fisheries and food value chains caused income loss and food security threats. The hurricanes destroyed infrastructure and productive assets. Fishing households live in a cash-based informal economy, limiting their access to loans, insurance and other protection services that act as safety nets during times of crisis or shocks. Degraded ecosystems and weak social fabrics add to the problem, not providing necessary ecological and social safety nets. Without these, coastal households are highly vulnerable and will struggle to cope with shocks.


Fishing households living in coastal communities across Honduras’s Caribbean coast

How do the building blocks interact?

Savings clubs provide simple mechanisms for rural communities to save and borrow while promoting greater social cohesion and resilience, both critical to overcoming crises and enabling community-led natural resource management. The clubs also help fishing households, who are often preoccupied with the day-to-day and meeting immediate needs, successfully sacrifice today’s spending to have enough for the future, which implies a shift their planning horizons from the short to the long run. This shift is essential for the success of conservation efforts, as ecosystem recovery takes time and requires fishers to forego a portion of today’s catches for tomorrow’s. Finally, by having access to savings and better credit, fishing households will be less likely to rely on predatory, unsustainable loans, disrupting a cycle where chronic debt drives overfishing.


Increased resilience through effective fisheries management, marine protection and saving clubs helped counter loss of income for fishers, maintain food security, weave tighter social and financial safety nets within communities that allowed households to help each other and cover emergencies. Plus, the heightened recognition of the importance of a healthy ocean for local livelihoods is further helping curb destructive fishing and generating support for fisheries management and the creation of new marine protected areas and reserves.



What used to be a routine trip for artisanal fisher Carlos Portillo has turned into an odyssey. Every few weeks, Carlos would travel from his remote coastal town in Honduras to the nearest city to stock up on beans, rice, flour, and, when fishing was good, even some meat. But as borders shut down and restrictions tighten as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carlos and many like him are starting to worry about their ability to access basic food staples and household supplies.


World attention has been tuned to the spread of the novel coronavirus and focused on the urban epicenters of the crisis and the closure of major parts of the economy. But in rural villages in developing countries like Honduras, a broader story from lives that have always been largely out of view, is emerging. And while there is no escape from the impacts of this crisis, the struggles of coastal villages like Carlos’s, where residents fish local waters and farm small plots of land, are coming into sharp relief.


Like the rest of the world, the communities across this Central American nation’s Caribbean coastline are hurting. “Before this crisis I would sell up to 400 pounds of fish a week. For the past two weeks, I’ve been unable to sell even a pound,” explains fisher Elvis Rodríguez. With shelter-in-place orders, the local traders that normally buy the daily catch from fishing communities and resell it in local towns, have stopped coming. Without cold storage to save fish for later, most fishers have no option but to decrease their fishing trips, foregoing income on potential catches.


But as local livelihoods take a hit and uncertainty grows, Honduran rural communities are recognizing that they do have safety nets to fall back on.

The ocean is providing one of the most important safety nets, sustaining thousands of households along Honduras’s north coast. “As long as there is fish in the sea, there is hope. We might not be able to sell our product, but we can still fish to feed our families and neighbors” says Edgardo Padilla, a fishing leader from a community not far from Carlos’s village.


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Gabriela Polo Rare

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Center for Marine Studies
Center for Marine Studies