Socio-economic development of small island fishing communities is greatly dependent on local coastal and marine resources. Illegal fishing and aggressive practices in insular ecosystems lead to overexploitation and environmental deterioration. Moreover, a lack of scientific data increases uncertainty and prevents adequate monitoring of marine resources. This paper focuses on the integration of a local fishing community into decision-making processes with the aim to potentiate artisanal fishing on the Island of Tenerife (the Canary Islands). The aim is to preserve both the marine ecosystem and promote the socio-economic development of traditional Cofradías (local fisher communities).
A qualitative methodological framework, based on participatory problem-solution trees and focus groups, was implemented to identify the main obstacles impeding the sustainable development of the artisanal fishing sector on the island. Collective proposals with policy implications are also discussed.
The community involved identified four main issues that are causing an unsustainable island fishery: 1) Overexploitation; 2) Poor self-management of Cofradías and commercialisation problems; 3) Fisher individualism and low co-management strategies, and 4) Illegal fishing increase vs. artisanal fishing decline. Results show the required policy enhancements to tackle those issues with, for instance, the creation of marine protected areas, the promotion of a common islander vision, and an increase in participatory research projects between scientists and fishers. Participants also revealed the necessity to adapt existing regulations to local specificity to reduce the gap between policy makers and local community.