The Knowledge Café event, Marine Governance: Reflections on conservation, sea access rights and social and cultural resilience, was based on the presence and contribution of seven young (i.e. under 30) artisanal fishers from Mesoamerica with whose communities and organisations like CoopeSolidar R.L (www.coopesolidar.org) have been working for over two years. The young fishers have been taking part in the regional civil society consultation process of FAO´s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries with the support of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) and a process of preparation for their participation in the World Conservation Congress 2012.

The idea was to deepen reflections on the key relationship between social and cultural resilience and marine conservation and to look for positive ways forward. The main topics articulated by the young fishers were human rights and improvement of opportunities, marine governance and participation in decision-making spaces, responsible fishing practices, rights to land and coastal marine areas, knowledge generation, contributions to the economy, drug trafficking and other social threats and climate change.

They voiced concern that women have particular difficulty in accessing various kinds of fishing activity and that there is no framework for obtaining credit for developing artisanal fisheries. They were keen supporters of moves towards Responsible Fisheries and had plenty of suggestions to contribute. They felt excluded from decision-making processes on marine protected areas, despite their local knowledge, and wanted involvement in research as well as communication of the results. The young generation do not intend to leave their communities but rather to learn and support development in their territories. They rejected the temptation to turn to drug trafficking in the face of low incomes. Overall artisanal fisheries are making a significant contribution to the economy and this should be more widely recognised by the powers that be.

The Knowledge Café formulated a message to the Congress, including a “vision for marine conservation that integrates the following aspects: the sustainable use of marine resources, access to decision-making spaces by local actors of the small-scale fisheries sector and the improvement of livelihoods of small-scale fishing communities as an integral part of marine conservation work.”

For a positive approach to Responsible Artisanal Fisheries in Costa Rica see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgFuNQNw8cY&feature=youtu.be

Photo: The young fishers in the conference hall at the congress. Credit: CoopeSoliDar R.L, 2012