Sustainable Fisheries

Special Collection

Worldwide, small-scale coastal fisheries contribute significantly to providing food, employment, and incomes to many very poor people. But these same fisheries, and the ecosystems upon which they rely, are under increasing threat from a combination of climate change, pollution, over-fishing, and the exploitation of resources.


Fisheries management has been a major component in trying to address some of these issues, but with limited global success. The potential of fisheries, if managed well, is considerable but what form that potential will take will depend on how and why fisheries are managed.


This collection of reports and presentations explores just this question, describing some of the challenges faced by small-scale fisheries worldwide and their efforts to address these challenges and improve the health and well-being of the people who are dependent on these threatened environments.


The collection brings together the "grey literature" of the field, valuable work that is not readily available through academic journals and databases but is instead spread across dozens of organizational websites. This set of reports was initially identified as part of a synthesis review of key lessons commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation's Program on Oceans and Fisheries. We are pleased to make it more easily available for others to use and build on and encourage researchers and practitioners to add relevant work to the collection.

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Progress on Fishery Performance Indicators (FPIs)

January 1, 2012

This is the supplemental PowerPoint for the presentation given at the IIFET Conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Provides bulleted points regarding the progress, lessons learned, policy recommendations based on Fishery Performance Indicators under evaluation in both developed and developing countries.

Markets and Economies; Performance Indicators

Legal Issues Pertaining to Community Based Fisheries Management

July 10, 2007

National and intergovernmental regulation of fisheries has not prevented many failures of fisheries management around the world. New approaches to improving the environmental sustainability of fisheries have included the certification of fisheries harvested by sustainable means, and the ecolabelling of fish and seafood products from certified fisheries. The intention is to use the power of markets as an incentive to induce more sustainable fisheries. To date, only a relatively small number of fisheries have been certified, and these have been predominantly in developed countries. Critiques from developing countries of ecolabelling, as currently formulated, focus on five general areas: a) legitimacy and credibility; b) a mismatch between certification requirements and the reality of tropical small-scale fisheries; c) potential distortions to existing practices and livelihoods; d) equity and feasibility; and e) perceived barriers to trade.This paper reviews these developing country concerns on the basis of already certified fisheries, and on experiences from forestry, aquaculture and the aquarium industry, and also examines precedents and trends in international environmental and trade issues. It suggests that ecolabelling as currently practiced is unlikely to be widely adopted in Asian countries. Certification may have sporadic success in some eco-conscious, or niche, markets but it is unlikely to stimulate global improvement of fisheries management.The paper argues that to avoid the controversy that accompanies ecolabelling, the focus should be on revision of national fisheries management and not on an ad hoc approach to individual fisheries. Improvements in fisheries management, the equitable treatment of fishing sub-sectors and stakeholders within management schemes, and the prospect of reaping increased value-added from fisheries all require government acceptance of needs and actions. Governments should be encouraged to enter into broad coalitions to improve aspects of fisheries management, and to enhance efforts to develop locally relevant indicator systems for fisheries and for the ecosystem approach. Governments of developing countries must also first address the difficult questions of access to and tenure arrangements for their fisheries, as these are essential prerequisites for successful certification and product labeling. They will also need to legislate on the form and conduct of the postharvest chain and product control, as, in export markets, these are outside the control ofthe fishing communities. International agreement and clarity on trade, environmental (and health) standards affecting fisheries will augment national efforts. Advocacy coalitions that include governments, rather than extraterritorial imposition of labelling schemes, are required.

Fishing for a Future: Women in Community Based Fisheries Management

April 10, 2007

This is the story of women in the Community Based Fisheries Management (CBFM) project in Bangladesh. In rural Asia (Southern)-Bangladesh; many women are involved in inland fisheries and fish farming activities, yet annual statistics fail to capture their importance. Year after year these women continue to be essential in improving nutrition, increasing the production and distribution of food and enhancing the living conditions of their families. Yet, fisher-women remain among the poorest and most vulnerable in this part of the world. This is the story of many women, who through CBFM, have improved and will continue to improve the livelihood of their family. They are the women fishers of Bangladesh. This is their story.

Social Capital: Communities Based Fisheries Management

March 25, 2007

Fishers are amongst the poorest people in Bangladesh. Most possess few capital assets, many are landless and have few alternative livelihood options. Their access to lakes, rivers and floodplains is strongly affected by decisions made by the people who control aquatic resources at the local level, particularly the rich and elites. The Community Based Fisheries Management Project is an action research project, which the WorldFish Center has been assisting the Department of Fisheries, Bangladesh to implement over the last ten years. The second phase of the project, CBFM-2, has involved the development and testing of a range of community based and co-management models in 116 water bodies through supporting the development of 130 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in partnership with 11 NGOs. Social capital is one of the five different types of capital (natural, physical, human, financial and social) that are needed for households to develop sustainable livelihood strategies. It consists of the networks and norms that govern the interactions among individuals, households and communities. Social capital can be categorised into three types: bonding, bridging and linking but the boundaries between these vary across contexts. The aim of the study was to see whether poor fishers involved with the CBFM-2 project have benefited through increasing their social capital.

Turning the Tide: Community Based Fisheries Management Protecting the Poor and the Environment

January 1, 2007

The Community Based Fisheries Management (CBFM-2) project is attempting to turn back the ride of years of environmental degradation in Bangladesh by conferring the responsibility for looking after the inland fisheries resources to those whose lives depend on them. The principle is simple -- hand over management of water bodies such as beels, floodplains and rivers to community groups and they will see to it that these resources are managed sustainabily and equitably so that future generations can depend on them for years to come.In practice, it is a complex process -- one which requires major shifts in long-held policies and principles by the government, intensive community development work with a range of NGOs and other stakeholders and the social empowerment of some of Bangladesh's most vulnerable citizens, the poor fishing community.Through a community based approach, groups of poor fishers are now practicing sustainable fisheries management by creating sanctuaries, protecting against illegal and destructuve fishing and banning fishing during the spawning season in project water bodies.

Community Based Fisheries Management: Capturing the Benefits

January 1, 2007

The unequal distribution of wealth and power in rural Bangladesh makes it difficult for the poorer members of society including women to access natural resources such as fisheries. Over a ten year period, the Community Based Fisheries Management (CBFM) project has successfully established access rights for many poor fishers to water bodies from which they were previously excluded. One of the main challenges faced by the project has been the resolution of disputes between the new user groups and the former users, often the rich, politically powerful 'rural elite'. This brief focuses on the approaches developed by the project to address the power struggle which faces community based organisations (CBOs) when taking control of valuable natural resources.

Community Based Fisheries Management: Institutional Options for Empowering Fisher Communities

January 1, 2007

This report sheds light on the diversity of approaches adopted by the various project partners, along with lessons learned during the Community Based Fisheries Management Project (CBFM-2). CBFM 2 was the second phase of an action research project designed to establish whether the sustainable management of publicly owned and private water bodies can be carried out by community groups consisting largely of poor fishers. The first phase implemented by the Department of Fisheries, with the assistance of the WorldFish Center and supported by the Ford Foundation, demonstrated that the approach was possible in a limited number of water bodies. The second phase, with assistance from the DFID-UK, involved a much greater range of water bodies (target 120, final number 116) with a range of partners -- the Department of Fisheries (DoF), the implementing NGOs, Banchte Shekha, BRAC, CARITAS, CNRS, CRED, GHARONI, Proshika, SDC, SHISUK, and the specialist NGOs, BELA for legal assistance and FemCom for media communications. A wide range of institutional arrangements have been established under the project. Many of the project documents state that there are three main fisheries management approaches; fisher-led, community-led and women-led. The definitions of the three approaches were: 1. Fisher-led Approach -- Forming groups among the fishers for using each water body and then a committee or organisation representing these groups and taking management decisions in a participatory manner; 2. Community-led Approach -- Participatory approach at the community level. Fishery managed by the community where participatory planning with different stakeholders is followed by forming a water body management committee according to the suggestions of all stakeholder categories; 3. Women-led Approach -- Ensure participatory planning involving the whole community covering all stakeholders, with groups usually formed with women (in some cases, mixed groups with men and women), and the women's group members take a lead in resource management. However these definitions fail to capture the full diversity of approaches adopted by project partners during implementation. By the end of the project, 10 different organisations had been involved in setting up community groups to manage CBFM-2 sites.

Community Based Fisheries Management: Livelihoods Impact

January 1, 2007

This policy brief addreses the lessons learned and policy recommendations from CBFM-2. The Community Based Fisheries Management (CBFM) Project has been implemented since 1995 by theDepartment of Fisheries (DoF) with the assistance of the WorldFish Center. It has worked in a range of water bodies across Asia (Southern)-Bangladesh; including government owned fisheries (jalmohals) and privately owned fisheries in closed beels, open beels, floodplains and rivers. The second phase of the project, CBFM-2, supported by DFID, is now in its last year of operation and covers 116 waterbodies. It has resulted in the establishment of 130 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) through community development work by 11 partner NGOs.

Community Based Fisheries Management: The Right Option

January 1, 2007

The principle behind community based fisheries management is handover of fisheries resources to community groups and they will manage the resources sustainably and equitably. The benefits of this approach are obvious -- it is pro-poor, equitable and sustainable. Handing over fisheries management to community groups secures access to fisheries resources for those people whose lives depend on them i.e. the poor fishers. This ensures a pro-poor approach supportive of the national goal of poverty alleviation. In addition to this, by making sure that the best fisheries do not forever end up with the few local elites, community managed fisheries guarantees equitable distribution of benefits from fisheries resources. The lives of some millions of people are dependent on fisheries resources and they must be allowed to enjoy the benefits from these resources. Moreover, unlike the current revenue based system of fisheries management, community managed fisheries approach is not driven by the overarching desire for profit. As a result, community groups responsible for managing fisheries resources balance the need for production with conservation which results in sustainability. A brief comparison of the approaches adopted for fisheries management (presented in the following tabular form) clearly demonstrates the advantages of community managed fisheries approach.

The Legal Background to Community Based Fisheries Management in Bangladesh

November 1, 2006

This booklet, produced as an output from the Community Based Fisheries Management Project -- 2nd Phase(CBFM-2), aims to summarise the legal knowledge and experiences built up and challenges faced during the five years of CBFM-2 implementation. It also suggests a set of legal and policy interventions to ensure future sustainability. The project has established community control over 116 water bodies, spread over 48 Upazilas (sub-district) in 22 districts in Bangladesh. With 130 Community Based Organisations (CBOs), formed under this project, the communities were given the responsibility for management of 116 water bodies -- government owned fisheries (jalmohals) and privately owned seasonal water bodies -- closed beels, open beels, river sections and floodplains. The CBFM-2 project has been managed by the Department of Fisheries in partnership with the WorldFish Center and 11 implementing NGOs -- Banchte Shekha, BRAC, Caritas, CNRS, CRED, GHARONI, Proshika, SDC, SHISUK, and the specialist NGOs FemCom for media communications and BELA for legal support and assistance.

Fisheries Policy Content and Direction in Asian APFIC Member Countries

January 1, 2006

This review by the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) examines the trends in fisheries and aquaculture policy in selected countries in Asia. The analysis is based on national policy documents and relevant literature as well as feedback from fisheries officials/experts in the region. The review assesses the policy status and trends relating to the use of development and/or management targets, natural resource management issues, financial, economic and marketing issues, and socio-economic and poverty issues. Individual country information was analysed to generate a regional synthesis of fisheries and aquaculture policy content and direction in the region, and the key drivers for change. The review highlights the differences in fisheries and aquaculture policy between countries and also reveals a surprising degree of similarity between main policy directions and strategies used to manage the sector. Many governments have initiated recent policy changes, often as a result of awareness about international views, policy changes/norms in other countries, and emerging ideas about what constitutes "best practice". In some cases donor projects and assistance have also been an important catalyst for policy change. The regional review suggests that much policy in the region is already well specified and that, while countries could certainly improve their policy content, greater challenges may lie in implementing policy rather than in improving policy itself.

Fishery Co-management: A Practical Handbook

January 1, 2006

For many years, Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has maintained an active portfolio of projects examining co-management and community-based management in fisheries and other resource systems. Since the publication of Managing Small-scale Fisheries (Berkes et al., 2001), there has been an increasing demand for guidance on what IDRC has learned about co-management, particularly across different geographical settings, socio-economic conditions, and histories of operation; and how it could apply to other types of fishing, link to other livelihoods, relate to other dynamic processes (such as the migration of fishermen), and respond to the seasonal nature of fish resources. This book attempts to respond to this demand by compiling recent experience from as wide a cross section of research as possible. During the development of this book, both IDRC and the authors wrestled with the concept of co-management. Given the evolving nature of this science, for example, what does co-management cover and how widely is the concept accepted? Importantly, there has been increasing acceptance of the idea that co-management is not an end point but rather a process -- a process of adaptive learning. Recognizing the diversity of both local contexts (ecological and social) and factors depleting the fishery (such as overfishing and habitat destruction), however, would it even be possible to put together a book of lessons learned? As you will soon discover, IDRC and the authors felt that it was neither possible nor desirable to produce a blueprint for fishery co-management. Rather, we agreed that it would be more useful to document the co-management process, as undertaken by both IDRC partners and others, and to put this experience into a form that could be shared with anyone interested in learning more about co-management and what others have learned. This shared and adaptive approach to learning is what this book is all about. In the pages that follow, you will find a complete picture of the co-management process: strengths, weaknesses, methods, activities, checklists and so on.