SULi participated as co-organizer of a panel entitled “Filling the information gaps towards small-scale sustainable fisheries management: building bridges between traditional and scientific knowledge” in the VII Mare Conference in Amsterdam. This conference gathers socio-economic researches from all over the world to discuss the latest research advances in the field of marine biology, sociology and  management of marine resources with 250 participants and more than 100 presentations concerning various issues of marine governance. 

Small-scale fisheries support the livelihoods and food security of many millions of fishers worldwide, and sustainable management of these fisheries is currently a major emerging focus for global action. The recent MARE Conference prioritized this sector in its VII meeting. Generally, governmental and nongovernmental institutions have shown they are not prepared to assist small scale fisheries through policy and technical support, and there is still a feeling from some sectors that these local experiences are weak and vulnerable, incapable of taking on the threats that  amongst others industrial fishing, massive tourism initiatives, pollution and climate change pose to a sustainable use of their threatened resources, their livelihoods and future. 

SULi and IUCN-FEG participated in a panel coordinated by Jeppe Kolding from the Biology Department of the University of Bergen, on invitation from the MARE conference organizers (1). The panel brought together perspectives on how applicable conventional fisheries theory is for small-scale fisheries, and how we can critically integrate fisheries science and tools with community-based efforts based on traditional knowledge, in order to foster sustainable use of small scale fisheries and respect for the needs and rights of small scale fishers.

Four panel presentations were given:

Jeppe Kolding: Is catch a function of effort or is effort a function of catch? Direct and indirect evidence from several small-scale fisheries around the world indicate that the biological productivity of the resource controls the fishing capacity much more than vice versa, and that effort thereby is self-regulated. Ironically, however, the tragedy arises from economic theory where capacity is deliberately replaced by efficiency as a prevention of the tragedy of the commons.

Paul van Zwieten: Catching the right size of fish: are size regulations harmful for small scale fisheries?
Mesh size and minimum landing size regulations are a part of virtually all small and large scale fisheries management regimes, to prevent “growth overfishing”. However, there is mounting evidence that minimum mesh size management provides a relatively low sustainable yield. Without size regulations – a so called “balanced harvesting pattern” - high yields can be achieved without causing much change in the structure of a fish community. Unregulated small-scale multi-gear fisheries, i.e. fisheries without size regulations, seem to automatically adjust to such balanced harvesting patterns thereby maximising production. From a food security point of view, conventional size regulations could be harmful to small scale fisheries, and the rationale of management of small-scale fisheries needs to be rethought.

V.Vivekanandan: Temperate Prescriptions, Tropical frustrations

To solve the current crisis in the fisheries of tropical developing countries, fisheries management models are imported that have evolved in an entirely different context of temperate ecosystems and governance systems of advanced capitalist societies. Unsurprisingly, these models are unsuitable as fisheries administrators find it difficult to match imported management structures with local realities. Poor fisheries management is fertile ground for international conservation groups imposing MPAs that in turn affect the livelihoods of small scale fishers. Developing countries need to develop their own models of management and conservation, working closely with their respective fishing communities to develop appropriate governance systems.

Vivienne Solís-Rivera and Alejandro Muñoz: Integrating traditional and scientific knowledge in management of small-scale fisheries: an example from Costa Rica.
Small scale fishing is not only important for the food and economic security of coastal and marine communities, it is also a way of life with a wealth of embedded knowledge and experience.  Some countries begin to recognize the importance and value of traditional and community knowledge for both marine conservation as well as social resilience. A small scale fishing cooperative in Costa Rica, CoopeTárcoles R.L. provides an example of an equitable low-impact sustainable fisheries system based on community knowledge and management.

The panel discussed a variety of crucial issues related to small-scale fisheries livelihoods, management of coastal and marine resources and marine conservation at the global and local scale.  Participants where very active in expressing the need to keep the discussion open since the challenge of sustainable use of marine resources is clearly one of the main issues to deal with for the future well being of humanity.

Jeppe Kolding is Associate Professor at the University of Bergen and member of SULi and IUCN-FEG: Vivienne Solis Rivera is founder of CoopeSoliDar R.L. and SULi member:


(1) Other collaborators included Aquaculture and Fisheries Group, Wageningen University; CoopeSolidar R.L (Costa Rica); European Bureau of Conservation and Development; and International Collective in support of Fishworkers.