Conservation and the right to fish: International conservation NGOs and the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.

The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF-Guidelines) were agreed with extensive input from small-scale fishers themselves, and hold great promise for enhancing both small-scale fishers’ human rights and fisheries sustainability in a meaningful and context relevant manner. However, this promise will not be fulfilled without continued input from fishing communities as the SSF-Guidelines are implemented. This paper proposes that international conservation NGOs, with their extensive geographical and political networks, can act as a conduit for communication between small-scale fishing communities and other parties and thus catalyse implementation of the Guidelines. In order to do so, they will first need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to people-as-well-as-parks and the human rights based approach espoused in the SSF-Guidelines. This paper reviews current engagement of international conservation NGOs with human rights in fisheries; looks at their potential motivations for doing more; and identifies challenges in the way. It concludes with a proposal for how international conservation NGOs could play a critical part in catalysing the implementation of the SSF-Guidelines.