On behalf of the Environment Programme, we are happy to share a new global assessment of small-scale fisheries recently completed by Duke University. Small-scale fisheries account for more than 90 per cent of the world’s commercial fishers, processors and other persons employed along the value chain, equivalent to more than 108 million people. Roughly half are employed on the ocean and the other half in inland fisheries – making small-scale fisheries the ocean’s largest employer.
This level of activity translates into a large portion of the global fish catch: an estimated 46 per cent of the total, and 38 per cent of the fish caught in the ocean. Small-scale fisheries are also estimated to provide over half the animal protein intake in many of the world’s least developed countries, and over half of the fish for domestic consumption in developing countries more broadly. In sum, in many regions of the world, small-scale fisheries provide both incomes to help reduce poverty, and safety nets to prevent it. Despite their importance, small-scale fisheries are often hidden or absent from national statistics, and frequently ignored in states’ policy-making.
More than 40 per cent of the people employed in small-scale fisheries live in China, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Small-scale fisheries play a role in maintaining local culture in many regions and other important community-level values that cannot be measured in demographic or economic terms alone. This is particularly the case for countries and regions with smaller populations highly reliant on small-scale fisheries, for example indigenous peoples from the Arctic and the Western Pacific.
Small-scale fisheries are facing significant social or shared problems, including exploitation to conflicts over space and resources. This comprehensive assessment captures historical research trends on small-scale fisheries governance systems but also the complexities of managing those resources with diverse goals in mind such as economic development, food security, natural resource management, employment and conservation. Key recommendations from the report include:
• Expand research on small-scale fisheries: Despite the thousands of local examples of small-scale fisheries governance observed and supported throughout the world, there is still relatively little knowledge of outcomes and impacts from different types of governance interventions in various contexts, particularly the social dimensions. The Too Big To Ignore Network has begun to coordinate existing information and build the field of knowledge around small-scale fisheries, from which lessons could be drawn. There are many opportunities to build on this network and expand the global small-scale fisheries research agenda.
• Build capacity of small-scale fisheries organisations: By increasing support for capacity building, it will help in particular emerging small-scale fisheries organisations and associations to be agents of governance reform. Although much of the scientific literature on small-scale fisheries has paid little attention to the agents of governance changes, a relatively recent phenomenon has been the emergence of more national, regional and global fishing organisations and associations. These organisations could provide an entry point for greater support to small-scale fisheries and fishing communities.
• Empower small-scale fisheries communities: Beyond a global research agenda and capacity building for potential agents of small-scale fisheries governance reform, the core of the recommendations has revolved around expanding work with leaders and small-scale fisheries groups. The goal is to exercise greater governance over the use of the resources and supporting ecosystems, considering the wider social context in which they occur. This is where most of the effort to support small-scale fisheries has been focused over recent decades in a variety of ways, with recommendations to increase direct support to small-scale fisheries communities and governments.
You can find the full Duke University assessment and related recommendations here.