Small-scale fisheries (SSF) have long been overshadowed by the concerns and perceived importance of the industrial sector in fisheries science and policy. Yet in recent decades, attention to SSF is on the rise, marked by a proliferation of scientific publications, the emergence of new global policy tools devoted to the small-scale sector, and concerted efforts to tally the size and impacts of SSF on a global scale. Given the rising tide of interest buoying SSF, it's pertinent to consider how the underlying definition shapes efforts to enumerate and scale up knowledge on the sector—indicating what dimensions of SSF count and consequently what gets counted. Existing studies assess how national fisheries policies define SSF, but to date, no studies systematically and empirically examine how the definition of SSF has been articulated in science, including whether and how definitions have changed over time. We systematically analyzed how SSF were defined in the peer-reviewed scientific literature drawing on a database of 1,723 articles published between 1960 and 2015. We coded a 25% random sample of articles (n = 434) from our database and found that nearly one-quarter did not define SSF. Among those that did proffer a definition, harvest technologies such as fishing boats and gear were the most common characteristics used. Comparing definitions over time, we identified two notable trends over the 65-year time period studied: a decreasing proportion of articles that defined SSF and an increasing reliance on technological dimensions like boats relative to sociocultural characteristics. Our results resonate with findings from similar research on the definition of SSF in national fisheries policies that also heavily rely on boat length. We call attention to several salient issues that are obscured by an overreliance on harvest technologies in definitions of SSF, including dynamics along the wider fisheries value chain and social relations such as gender. We discuss our findings considering new policies and emerging tools that could steer scientists and practitioners toward more encompassing, consistent, and relational means of defining SSF that circumvent some of the limitations of longstanding patterns in science and policy that impinge upon sustainable and just fisheries governance.
In a world in which ocean degradation is widespread and aggravated by the effects of climate change, there is a need to contribute with new management approaches to ameliorate the situation. Here, inclusive management is proposed as such an alternative. This contribution argues that including all genders in the management process is needed and the inclusion itself can generate new ways to solve problems. An assessment of findings from literature of the positive aspects when considering gender in environmental governance is presented and related to the specific situation of small-scale fisheries (SSF). These positive findings are explained in terms of (1) Participation, (2) Space, actors and activities, (3) Economic power, and (4) Equity and environmental stewardship. Further, a practical approach is taken and a model for gender inclusion in coastal/ocean management for SSF is presented and illustrated with a case of seagrass SSF in East Africa. The central argument is that in view of ongoing coastal/ocean degradation and the moderate governance and management success, it is worth trying management approaches that consciously and explicitly consider gender and diversity of actors. This will bring central actors (e.g., women not previously considered) into the management process and will provide the base for better governance and policy reform.
The vast developmental opportunities offered by the world’s coasts and oceans have attracted the attention of governments, private enterprises, philanthropic organizations, and international conservation organizations. High-profile dialogue and policy decisions on the future of the ocean are informed largely by economic and ecological research. Key insights from the social sciences raise concerns for food and nutrition security, livelihoods and social justice, but these have yet to gain traction with investors and the policy discourse on transforming ocean governance. The largest group of ocean-users – women and men who service, fish and trade from small-scale fisheries (SSF) – argue that they have been marginalized from the dialogue between international environmental and economic actors that is determining strategies for the future of the ocean. Blue Economy or Blue Growth initiatives see the ocean as the new economic frontier and imply an alignment with social objectives and SSF concerns. Deeper analysis reveals fundamental differences in ideologies, priorities and approaches. We argue that SSF are being subtly and overtly squeezed for geographic, political and economic space by larger scale economic and environmental conservation interests, jeopardizing the substantial benefits SSF provide through the livelihoods of millions of women and men, for the food security of around four billion consumers globally, and in the developing world, as a key source of micro-nutrients and protein for over a billion low-income consumers. Here, we bring insights from social science and SSF to explore how ocean governance might better account for social dimensions of fisheries.
The targeting of spawning aggregations is one of the most significant pressures facing coral reef ecosystems. The use of seasonal closures has been advanced for protecting aggregating fisheries for which managers have limited information on the location and timing of their reproductive events; however, few studies have examined the performance of these types of closures. This study assesses the perceptions of 150 fishers regarding the performance of seasonal closures in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Our results show that most fishers perceived that seasonal closures are effective fishery management measures. Across the six seasonal closures examined, fishers reported that these closures protected spawning aggregations and, to a lesser degree, increased fish abundance. These measures, however, did not always improve fishers' livelihoods nor result in their support for the seasonal closures. The loss of resource and market access during periods of high consumer demand and overlapping seasonal closures were the main causes of financial distress.
Fishers indicated that the performance of the seasonal closures could be improved by increasing investments in monitoring, control, and surveillance capabilities, and adjusting their timing to accommodate economic and local ecological considerations. Fishers argued that revisions were necessary because some species spawned year-round or outside closure windows. Some fishers also called for replacing seasonal closures with alternative management measures (e.g., area-time closures, marine protected areas, gear restrictions), conducting additional scientific research, and improving fisher education. This work underscores that beliefs about conservation and livelihood outcomes are closely linked to the quality of management, the importance of conducting periodic assessments, and engaging fishers in decision-making to increase accountability, transparency, and support for management interventions.
As changes in climate, governance, and organization reshape the dynamics of small-scale fisheries around the globe, the persistence of many local livelihoods appears contingent upon the ability of resource users to respond and adapt. Though significant scholarship has considered the limiting roles of resources and infrastructure, recent research has highlighted the importance of local learning and knowledge. Rather than being driven by forces exogenous to local communities, it is increasingly recognized that adaptation may be limited by perceptions and processes within them. Here, we explore knowledge production and adaptive response within a small-scale fishery in the central Gulf of California following system perturbation. Using mixed methods from the natural and social sciences, we (1) identify local drivers of social-ecological change, (2) document knowledge concerning their causes and consequences across a diverse group of small-scale fishermen, and (3) identify patterns of intracultural agreement and disagreement associated with divergent adaptive response. Results indicate that perceptions of social-ecological change were heterogeneous and that gear ownership and target species diversification were critical factors in determining the cultural models through which fishermen understood and responded to changes in the resource system. Unlike other user groups, owner-operator fishermen pursuing generalist livelihood strategies held consensus beliefs regarding changes to system structure and function and demonstrated increased ability to modify fishing tactics with the best practices for sustainable use. Our findings highlight how local knowledge can be used to assess the proximate impacts of external drivers of change and provide insight into the cultural models influencing in situ decision-making and adaptive response within modern fishery systems.
The data requirements and resources needed to develop effective indicators of fishing impacts on target stocks may often be great, especially for mangrove fisheries where, for example, tidal cycles sequentially flood and drain the habitat as a result of natural processes. Here, we used underwater video systems to evaluate the impact of small-scale fisheries on mangrove fish assemblages at four levels of fishing pressure (low, medium, high, and no pressure). The lowest values of species richness and abundance were recorded in the areas fished most intensively. Conversely, the highest species richness and the occurrence of larger-bodied fish were recorded in areas of reduced fishing activity, which was surprisingly similar to the “no fishing” areas. The slopes of the community size spectra steepened in response to exploitation, while the relative abundance of medium-sized fish (16–25 cm) declined. Fishing for local or regional markets, rather than subsistence, also led to a decrease in the abundance of larger fish (>41 cm). The marked response of population parameters to fishing pressure reflected the impact of unregulated small-scale fisheries on areas of mangroves. Fishery management practices that ignore contemporary changes in these environments are likely to overestimate long-term yields, leading to overfishing. Thus, size-based approaches to evaluating fishing pressure were suitable for detecting negative responses from the mangrove fish assemblages. A next step will be to integrate size- and species-based ecological approaches that provide mechanisms to address pronounced decreases in specific species as a more profitable indicator of fishing impacts on mangrove fish assemblages. This approach will allow the development of effective conservation and management strategies.
In the Pacific Northwest, residents are mobilizing to prevent the coastal export of fossil fuels and protect unique ecosystems and place-based communities. This paper examines the diverse groups, largely from the Bellingham area, and how they succeeded in blocking construction of what was to be the largest coal-shipping port in North America, the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT). Tribes, environmental organizations, faith-based groups, and other citizen groups used a multitude of approaches to prevent development, both independently and in concert. This paper reviews the various ways in which the groups collaborated and supported one another to resist the neoliberalization of the coast and support local sovereignty, unique ecosystems, and place-based communities. Groups like Power Past Coal, Protect Whatcom, and Coal-Free Bellingham fought for important and protective changes and evidenced communitywide political support, but the sovereign rights of the Lummi Nation were the legal bar to constructing the coal terminal.
Commercial small‐scale fishing in the Mediterranean Sea accounts for more than 80% of the commercial fishing fleet. Commercial small‐scale fishing competes with non‐professional fishing, such as recreational and illegal fishing. Fisheries statistics usually fail to report non‐professional fishing data. The aim of this study was to investigate the competition between fishing categories (commercial, recreational and illegal fishing) and their temporal variability in two future Marine Protected Areas in Tunisia. Over a 2‐year period, 213 small‐scale coastal fisheries landings were monitored. Additional socio‐economic information was collected using direct questionnaires. Results highlighted that: (a) at least 47.91% of non‐professional fishers admitted selling the catch (and so were classified as illegal fishers); (b) illegal and recreational fishing mean catch per fishers per day, represented, respectively, 40% and 20% of commercial fishing; (c) catch rates and species richness for illegal and commercial fishing followed the same temporal patterns at both locations; (d) all fishing categories fished high trophic levels and vulnerable species; and (e) potential economic values of illegal and recreational fishing catch were significantly higher than those of commercial fishing. These findings provide quantitative evidence of competition between illegal and legal (commercial and recreational) fishing in the Mediterranean Sea.
In the early 2000s, Senegal set up several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along its coastal zone with the purpose of biodiversity conservation and to support sustainable management of fisheries. However, the impact of MPAs may vary according to the type of fisheries. In Senegal, the sardinella fishery accounts for 70% of total catches. This fishery is of crucial importance for national food security and employment. Given this importance, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of MPAs, often being considered as a tool for fisheries management. An analytical, dynamic and spatial bio-economic model of sardinella fishery, considering fish and fisher migration, has been developed and scenarios over forty years have been analyzed. The results show that the fishery is economically overexploited and that Senegal could lose about 11.6 billion CFA over forty years of exploitation, i.e. 290 million CFA per year. To achieve an optimal level of exploitation, it would be necessary to halve the current fishing capacity. Implementing MPAs for 10, 20 and 30% of the Senegalese exclusive economic zone lead to slight increases in biomass (1%) and rent (5–11%). In addition, spatio-temporal closures can lead to increased exploitation in unclosed areas, due to the absence of enforcement. Achieving target 11 of the Aichi Convention, i.e., 10% of coastal and marine areas protected per country, will have a reserve effect on the resource but also only lead to weak improvements in economic indicators for the Senegalese fishery. Finally, because the sardinella resource is shared among many countries of the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC), a sub-regional cooperation is necessary for a sustainable management.
Fishers’ spatial behavior affects their incomes, livelihoods and ecological sustainability and is affected by establishment of protected areas, and the impacts of changing climate and weather patterns. An understanding of fishers’ spatial behavior is essential for evaluating catch trends or estimating per-area yields. Location choice by fishers has largely been understood through foraging models and empirical studies in large scale, developed country fisheries. This paper uses participatory mapping, logbooks and remotely sensed weather (wind speed) data to explore the influence of weather and capital on the spatial behavior and success of coastal Kenyan small-scale fishers. We test generalized foraging models of fisher behavior. A reef crest separates available fishing grounds in the study area between two distinct areas of dissimilar fish catches. Over half of the fishing trips accessed grounds outside the reef, particularly in the calmer northeast monsoon season. Trips across the reef were more successful both in terms of catch and value per fisher and price per kg. Access across the reef was determined primarily by season but was also affected by métier and daily wind speeds. Amongst a sample of non-motorised trips, crossing the reef was the most important variable for predicting Value Per Unit Effort (VPUE). Other things equal, more productive grounds ought to attract more effort, but access to the fishing grounds beyond the reef is constrained by fishers’ access to capital, fluctuations in weather and the interaction between these variables. Fishers with low levels of capital are more affected by daily weather that limits access to the more profitable fishing grounds. Fishers with more capital are able to access more productive grounds more freely, but at the expense of extra compensation for the capital needed. Thus while gross returns to offshore trips exceed similar returns for nearshore trips, net returns are likely to be more equal. In our study a stark exception to the pattern of higher returns from more capitalised gear is the relatively high VPUE achieved by spear fishers, making the assumption of free movement of labour between gears not valid. The study also adds a temporal complexity to this picture by showing the likelihood of accessing grounds beyond the reef crest varies temporally by season.