Small-scale fishers as allies or opponents? Unlocking looming tensions and potential exclusions in Poland's marine spatial planning
The success of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) depends on the effective participation of small-scale fishers (SSFs), and the extent to which marine governance in general can address the problems they face. As Poland's MSP in areas that are key to small-scale fisheries are yet to begin, this paper explores tensions in the country's looming coastal MSP processes through clarifying both the risks faced by SSFs and their perspectives on MSP. Using semi-structured interviews with SSFs and analytical literature reviews on small-scale fisheries, it is found that Poland's MSP is cast against a contentious history of marine resource management that shapes negative perceptions of and attitudes towards both the European Union-mediated MSP and marine scientists. Notably, SSFs believe that (1) authorities often undervalue and underutilize their experiential knowledge, (2) MSP is intended primarily to facilitate the siting of offshore wind farms and, (3) scientific knowledge is either not effectively communicated or is at the service of investors. A discussion follows that proposes measures through which planners can ensure procedural fairness. The paper concludes by offering TURF-Reserves as a novel and integrated co-management system within MSP which has potentials for empowering SSFs and revitalizing Poland's small-scale fisheries, while ensuring effective marine protection.