For a fishery to be sustainable, the fish population and the ecosystem must be healthy and resilient. All who depend on fish for food and livelihoods have a responsibility to govern these resources sustainably as important stewards of these environments. Success will depend on small-scale fishers and on how their needs and aspirations are met.
Small-scale fisheries governance requires:
- Secure and stable access to fishing grounds
- Access to funds to diversify the sector
- A seat at the table that allows fishers to make decisions affecting their future
- Empowerment efforts to allow fishers to take up the most effective solutions
What we are doing
The Coastal Communities Initiative works to help small-scale fishers claim their legitimate tenure rights and ensure that small-scale fishers and local knowledge is incorporated into decision-making.
Governance frameworks vary from one country to the next, but common to many countries is the recognition of self- or co management approaches to deliver the rights of small-scale fishers. Co-management involves sharing the responsibility and authority between governments and communities. While co-management has been customary in many small-scale fishers for thousands of years and a living example of participatory democracy, policies are only now being adopted nationally.
Compared to a top-down approach, co-management relies on transparency and trust, merging science and traditional knowledge. The participation required can be time-consuming, but it rewards the additional effort with benefits for both people and nature.
A co-management approach can be applied to economic activities like sustainable fishing, aquaculture and seaweed farming, as well as conservation and blue-carbon capture projects like protecting coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass. Coupled with microfinance tools, financial literacy and access to finance, such projects can help reduce communities’ dependency on dwindling inshore fisheries. By improving regional and local policies, initiative partners are accelerating the replication of co-management and empowering small-scale fishers and their government partners to put it into action.