The COVID-19 Pandemic, Small-Scale Fisheries and Coastal Fishing Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly spread around the world with extensive social and economic effects. This editorial focuses specifically on the implications of the pandemic for small-scale fishers, including marketing and processing aspects of the sector, and coastal fishing communities, drawing from news and reports from around the world. Negative consequences to date have included complete shut-downs of some fisheries, knock-on economic effects from market disruptions, increased health risks for fishers, processors and communities, additional implications for marginalized groups, exacerbated vulnerabilities to other social and environmental stressors, and increased Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.

Conservation, contraception and controversy: Supporting human rights to enable sustainable fisheries in Madagascar

Environmental NGOs are increasingly called upon to respect human rights when undertaking conservation programs. Evaluating a family planning program running alongside marine management measures in Madagascar, we find that family planning services provided by an environmental NGO can support women’s reproductive rights.

A network perspective on spatially clustered territorial use rights for fishers (TURF) zones.

Co-managed territorial use rights for fishers (TURFs) have shown promise for small-scale fisheries management. The territorial use rights help clarify access and ownership rights, while co-management arrangements create formal relationships between fishers and government. However, there is limited research into the governance processes that influence the interactions and complementarities of TURF zones that are clustered together. In a network of 16 co-managed TURFs in the Cau Hai lagoon, Vietnam, we analyzed management decentralization and the relationship between spatial and networked (social) proximity. Our findings draw attention to several broad lessons for co-managed TURFs: (1) TURFs may operate as isolated silos if co-management agreements do not address relationships among TURF leaders; (2) spatial proximity does not automatically translate to social proximity; and (3) leaders of individuals TURFs need capacity for communication and coordination with other local fisheries leaders. These findings highlight the importance of consideration to the ways that TURF design and implementation influences the relationships and collaboration between fishers, government officials, and other actors.

Role of communities in fisheries management: “one would first need to imagine it.”

Are coastal communities relevant in fisheries management? Starting from what Svein Jentoft has had to say about the topic, we explore the idea that viable fishing communities require viable fish stocks, and viable fish stocks require viable fishing communities. To elaborate and expand on Jentoft’s arguments, first, we discuss values as a key attribute of communities that confer the ability to manage coastal resources. Turning to power, next we explore why fishing communities need to be empowered by having the opportunity to self-manage or co-manage resources. Third, regarding community viability, we make the argument that (1) rebuilding or maintaining viable fishing communities and fish stocks cannot succeed without first dealing with vulnerabilities, and that (2) the dimensions of vulnerability involve increase/decrease in well-being, better/poorer access to capitals, and building/losing resilience. The idea that healthy fishing communities and healthy fish stocks require one another implies a viable system that contains both, a social-ecological system view. The values embedded in communities enable them to manage resources. Thus, managers and policy makers need to imagine healthy fishing communities who take care of resources, and this positive image of communities is more likely than present policies to lead to viable fishing communities as well as viable fish stocks.

Estimating fishers’ net income in small-scale fisheries: minimum wage or average wage?

Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) are complex social-ecological systems that are affected not only by biological responses to oceanographic changes but also by socio-economic conditions and market demand expressed from local to global scales. Ex-vessel prices are generally elastic and volatile from year to year or even from season to season, depending on many factors. This variability makes it difficult to keep fishers’ incomes and livelihoods stable over time. Here, we use a multispecies small-scale fishery from the Ria de Arousa (NW Spain) as an example to illustrate the complexity and economic contributions of SSFs and to analyse the performance of SSFs in terms of net income per fisher. Our results show that the mean total landed value from SSFs is approximately 35 million US$·year−1, which represents almost 25% of the total annual value of Spanish SSF landings and almost 4% of the value of European Union SSF landings. Our study reveals that from 2008 to 2014, the total landed value of the fishing fleet operating in the area has decreased by 11.8 million US$·year−1, a decrease of 18.8% within the seven-year study period. The study also indicates that floating shellfisheries are by far the type of fishing gear that generates the largest total landings and landed value in the Ria de Arousa, generating a mean revenue of 19.66 million US$·year−1. The total economic weight of floating shellfisheries together with the high distribution of licenses provides license holders with year-round economic stability. The combination of the number of fishing gear selected and the number of species that generate their revenues plays an important role in shaping fishers’ ability to obtain an income from SSFs. Nevertheless, high dependence on and specialisation in shellfisheries could reduce fishers’ social-ecological resilience and hamper their ability to cope with uncertain natural dynamics in changing ecosystems. We find that the net income per fisher varies between 4,000 and 42,000 US$·year−1, with a mean net income per fisher of 21,800 US$·year−1. Taking into account the Spanish minimum wage, almost 40% of fishers in the study area earn at least the minimum wage, 8% earn almost double the minimum wage, and 1.4% make three times the minimum wage. From a global perspective, we found that only three out of the 33 countries analysed present fishers’ net incomes that are above or almost equal to the national average wage and far above each country’s minimum wage.

Women’s perspectives of small-scale fisheries and environmental change in Chilika lagoon, India

This article investigates the gendered implications of environmental change using case studies of two small-scale fishing communities in Chilika lagoon, India. We undertake an intersectional analysis that examines dynamics between groups of fisherwomen in relation to social-ecological change. We focus specifically on (1) fisherwomen’s perspectives about the key drivers of change (e.g., natural disasters and aquaculture) within the social and ecological system of Chilika lagoon; (2) how environmental change is impacting the livelihoods and coping responses of fisherwomen; and (3) how fisherwomen communities are adapting to the ongoing process of change, highlighting in particular the gendered dimensions of out-migration. Our findings demonstrate that fisherwomen’s roles and identities are not static and that the impacts of environmental change vary for different groups of fisherwomen. We find that gender intersects with caste, income, geographic location, age, and household membership to create heterogeneous experiences and knowledge that reflects the complexities associated with gender and environmental change. With specific regard to the increase in fisherwomen out-migrating, we show that responses and adaptations to environmental change have gender-differentiated impacts and challenges.

Who brings in the fish? The relative contribution of small-scale and industrial fisheries to food security in Southeast Asia.

Amidst overexploited fisheries and further climate related declines projected in tropical fisheries, marine dependent small-scale fishers in Southeast Asia face an uncertain future. Yet, small-scale fishers are seldom explicitly considered in regional fisheries management and their contribution to national fish supply tends to be greatly under-estimated compared to industrial fisheries. Lack of knowledge about the small-scale sector jeopardizes informed decision-making for sustainable ecosystem based fisheries planning and social development. We fill this knowledge gap by applying reconstructed marine fish catch statistics from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam—countries of the Gulf of Thailand—from 1950 to 2013 to assess the relative contribution of small-scale and industrial fisheries to national food security.

Exploring trade-offs in climate change response in the context of Pacific Island fisheries.

Climate change poses significant and increasing risks for Pacific Island communities. Sea-level rise, coastal flooding, extreme and variable storm events, fish stock redistribution, coral bleaching, and declines in ecosystem health and productivity threaten the wellbeing, health, safety, and national sovereignty of Pacific Islanders, and small-scale fishers in particular. Fostering the response capacity of small-scale fishing communities will become increasingly important for the Pacific Islands. Challenging decisions and trade-offs emerge when choosing and mobilizing different responses to climate change. The trade-offs inherent in different responses can occur between various exposures, across spatial and temporal scales, among segments of society, various objectives, and evaluative criteria. Here we introduce a typology of potential trade-offs inherent in responses, elaborated through examples from the Pacific. We argue that failure to adequately engage with trade-offs across human responses to climate change can potentially result in unintended consequences or lead to adverse outcomes for human vulnerability to climate change. Conversely, proactively identifying and addressing these trade-offs in decision-making processes will be critical for planning hazard mitigation and preparing island nations, communities, and individuals to anticipate and adapt to change, not only for Pacific Islands, but for coastal communities around the world. (Full publication)

War, fish, and foreign fleets: the marine fisheries catches of Sierra Leone 1950–2015.

In countries like Sierra Leone, where stock assessments based on fisheries-independent data and complex population models are financially and technically challenging, catch statistics may be used to infer fluctuations in fish stocks where more precise data are not available. However, FAO FishStat, the most widely-used time-series data on global fisheries ‘catches’ (actually ‘landings’), does not account for Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) catches and relies on statistics provided by the national agencies of each member country. As such, reported FishStat data is vulnerable to changes in monitoring capacity, governmental transitions, and budgetary constraints, and may substantially underestimate the measure of extracted marine resources. In this report, Sierra Leone’s total catches by all marine fishing sectors were estimated for the period 1950–2015, using a catch reconstruction approach incorporating national data, expert knowledge, and both peer-reviewed and grey literature.

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.