Since the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, several countries, funding organizations, environmental groups and research communities have pledged support and made commitment to help achieve these goals. SDG14: Life Below Water, for instance, has been embraced as the global goal for conservation and sustainable uses of the oceans, seas and marine resources. Among its many targets, SDG14b speaks directly to small-scale fisheries, calling for secured access to resources and markets for this sector. We argue that achieving SDG 14b requires a holistic approach encompassing several SDGs, including livelihoods, economic growth, community sustainability, strong institutions and partnerships. It is also important to align the SDG targets with the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines), as the mutuality that exists between the scope and nature of the two instruments can help guide the formulation of appropriate governance tools. Yet, the alignment of these two instruments alone does not guarantee sustainability of small-scale fisheries, especially without an official mandate from the governments. The case in point is the European Union where small-scale fisheries are not sufficiently recognized within the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), despite being the largest sector (75% of the fleet). Through an examination of the CFP in the context of the SSF Guidelines and the SDGs, we discuss options and possibilities for inclusive consideration of small-scale fisheries in the upcoming policy reform, which might then lead to both achieving fisheries sustainability and the SDGs in the EU.
Analysis of data from vessel monitoring systems and automated identification systems in large-scale fisheries is used to describe the spatial distribution of effort, impact on habitats, and location of fishing grounds. To identify when and where fishing activities occur, analysis needs to take account of different fishing practices in different fleets. Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) vessels have generally been exempted from positional reporting requirements, but recent developments of compact low-cost systems offer the potential to monitor them effectively. To characterize the spatial distribution of fishing activities in SSFs, positions should be collected with sufficient frequency to allow detection of different fishing behaviours, while minimizing demands for data transmission, storage, and analysis. This study sought to suggest optimal rates of data collection to characterize fishing activities at appropriate spatial resolution. In a SSF case study, on-board observers collected Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) position and fishing activity every second during each trip. In analysis, data were re-sampled to lower temporal resolutions to evaluate the effect on the identification of number of hauls and area fished. The effect of estimation at different spatial resolutions was also explored. Consistent results were found for polling intervals <60 s in small vessels and <120 in medium and large vessels. Grid cell size of 100 × 100 m resulted in best estimations of area fished. Remote collection and analysis of GNSS or equivalent data at low cost and sufficient resolution to infer small-scale fisheries activities. This has significant implications globally for sustainable management of these fisheries, many of which are currently unregulated.
Gear restrictions are an important management tool in small-scale tropical fisheries, improving sustainability and building resilience to climate change. Yet to identify the management challenges and complete footprint of individual gears, a broader systems approach is required that integrates ecological, economic and social sciences. Here we apply this approach to artisanal fish fences, intensively used across three oceans, to identify a previously underrecognized gear requiring urgent management attention. A longitudinal case study shows increased effort matched with large declines in catch success and corresponding reef fish abundance. We find fish fences to disrupt vital ecological connectivity, exploit > 500 species with high juvenile removal, and directly damage seagrass ecosystems with cascading impacts on connected coral reefs and mangroves. As semi-permanent structures in otherwise open-access fisheries, they create social conflict by assuming unofficial and unregulated property rights, while their unique high-investment-low-effort nature removes traditional economic and social barriers to overfishing.
Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) are characterized by prominent biological features susceptible to anthropogenic disturbances. Following international guidelines, the identification and protection of VMEs require a detailed documentation regarding both the community structure and the fishing footprintin the area. This combined information is lacking for the majority of the Mediterranean mesophotic rocky reefs that, similarly to deep-seabottoms, are known to host valuable animal forests.
A deep coralligenous site exploited by artisanal fishermen in the NW Mediterranean Sea is here used as a model to assess the vulnerability of animal forests at mesophotic depths and evaluate the sustainability of artisanal fishing practices, particularly lobster trammel net. The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) footage is used to document the biodiversity and health status of the megabenthic communities, while discard data are employed to quantify the entanglement risk, discard rates of fragile species and threats to sea floor integrity.
A multidisciplinary approach is proposed for the assessment of the vulnerability criteria of an EU Special Area of Conservation, leading to specific managementmeasures, including the delineation of fishing restrictions.
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.