From relatively limited and narrow uses two decades ago, the concept of vulnerability has emerged as a key dimension of the development debate. Be it in relation to climate change, disasters, globalization and economic development, and social–ecological system changes more generally, vulnerability is a complex and multifaceted concept that has attracted the attention of scholars and development practitioners from all disciplines. The many interpretations of vulnerability and its many scales (e.g. individual, community, ecosystem, countries, continents) and fields of application have led to a wide array of propositions regarding ways and means by which vulnerability could be studied, characterized, understood, and acted upon. This multiplication of approaches and methodologies of assessment has enabled new insights into the causes and consequences of vulnerability, but has also caused some confusion among practitioners and led to the voicing of a need for clarification and guidance on how best to approach the study of vulnerability. This publication provides an overview of vulnerability assessment concepts and methodologies. It sheds light on the different vulnerability assessment methodologies that have been developed, and on how these are conditioned by the disciplinary traditions from which they have emerged. It also analyses how these methodologies have been applied in the context of fisheries and aquaculture, with illustrative examples of their application. A series of practical steps to assess vulnerability in the fisheries and aquaculture sector is proposed in order to support climate change specialists working with communities dependent on fisheries and aquaculture, as well as fisheries and aquaculture practitioners wishing to incorporate adaptation planning into the sector’s management and development.
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