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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Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security: Integrated Approaches to Addressing Multiple Challenges in the Coral Triangle

July 1, 2013

The Coral Triangle is the most biologically and economically valuable marine ecosystem on the planet. Covering just three percent of the globe, the region represents more than half of the world's reefs and boasts 76 percent of its known coral species. Sustaining more than 130 million people who rely directly on the marine ecosystems for their livelihoods and food, the marine habitats of the Coral Triangle contribute billions of dollars each year toward the economies of the region.Although the environmental imperative for preserving this area of incredible value and biodiversity is obvious, the growing pressures and threats from widespread poverty, rapid development, and global demands continue to place enormous strain on the natural marine resources of the Coral Triangle.

Fish -- More Than Just Another Commodity

January 1, 2013

This brief highlights the contribution of wild capture fisheries to nutritional security in fish dependent developing countries. It is intended to stimulate debate around two broad themes: (1) when should the focus of fisheries policies be on local food security and human well-being as opposed to revenue generation, and (2) how does the current research agenda, with its emphasis on environmental and economic issues, assist or impair decision making processes.

Fisheries policies for a new era

January 1, 2013

This Guidance Note presents a simple approach to analyzing the governance context for development of aquatic agricultural systems; it is intended as an aid to action research, and a contribution to effective program planning and evaluation. It provides a brief introduction to the value of assessing governance collaboratively, summarizes an analytical framework, and offers practical guidance on three stages of the process: identifying obstacles and opportunities, debating strategies for influence, and planning collaborative actions.

Baseline Review of the Status and Management of the Caribbean Spiny Lobster Fisheries in the Caricom Region

January 1, 2011

This report provides a review of the status and management of the Caribbean Spiny Lobster Fisheries in the CARICOM region. It provides a general overview of the habitat requirements and threats to survival of this lobster, along with the distribution and population in each country with Caribbean Spiny Lobster Fisheries. Each country's domestic use, international trade, and conservation and management measures are also reviewed.

Stories from the Field: Adapting Fishing Policies to Address Climate Change in West Africa

October 19, 2010

"The 2009-2010 Annual Report of the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Program (CCAA). Coastal Africa (Western); from Mauritania to Guinea, benefits from a marine upwelling of nutrient-rich cold water which makes it one of the world's most productive fishing zones. The fisheries sector is therefore extremely important to both national and local economies and to the food security of local people. But fish stocks are threatened by destructive fishing practices, ecosystem decline and competition within the sector. This crucial resource faces further uncertainties because of climate change. Led by the Dakar-based organization Environment and Development Action in the Third World (ENDA), the project "Adapting Fishing Policy to Climate Change in West Africa" (which goes by the French acronym APPECCAO) aims to integrate an improved understanding of climate change's potential impacts and options for adaptation into plans and policies governing fisheries. Through action research, it seeks to widen dialogue so that those whose livelihoods depend on the fisheries (fishers, boat owners,outfitters and those in the packing and processing industry) can contribute to sustainable management."

MMAS Project Synthesis: A Chapter in the MMAS Final Report to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

October 15, 2010

One chapter of the Marine Managed Area Science (MMAS) Final Narrative Report. This document is a technical summary and synthesis of lessons learned under MMAS in its initial five years, under a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. MMAS encompassed the efforts of 100+ senior investigators working on about 50 related and sometimes overlapping projects. The program evolved gradually as individual projects were sequentially brought on line and woven together over the 5 years. Many MMAS participants saw the program through the eyes of their individual interests. Admittedly, few remained aware of the overarching goals and synthesis objectives of MMAS all the while that they were participants.For that reason, with the close of the grant, this document is part of a series of products that provide an integrated glimpse of the MMAS program, and the insights that it has begun to yield

Linking Fisheries Reform to Political Economy, Summary

September 1, 2010

A recently completed report on The Political Economy of Natural Resource Use: Lessons for Fisheries Reform consolidates existing knowledge on the political economy of natural resource use. Because of its traditional focus on regulatory approaches the fisheries sector has been slow to apply the lessons from the well established literature on the political economy of property rights. The report draws attention to the tremendous opportunities available for improving the chances for successful fisheries reform across a broad spectrum of countries. Political economy challenges and fishery-specific pathways for establishing rights-based reforms must be closely linked to achieve success in building sustainable wealth in fisheries. This document briefly addresses key issues explored in that report.

The Socio-economic Impacts of Fisheries Management and Policy Designed to Achieve Biodiversity Conservation

November 1, 2009

This report responds to a request from the Tubney Charitable Trust to carry out a basic review of current knowledge of the socio-economic impacts of fisheries management and policy designed to achieve biodiversity conservation. The fisheries sector is having a significant impact upon marine biodiversity in UK waters. The report discusses the importance and diversity of socio-economic knowledge and how it can help to place fisheries into the broader, more holistic, framework of sustainable development. It emphasises the complexity of the policy environment and the need to understand the conflicting and contrasting motives of the different stakeholders. Understanding what motivates policymakers and fishers is the first step to changing their behaviour. The report discusses the divergence between policy and policy implementation, and the complexity of policy instruments.

One Last Chance: The Economic Case for a New Approach to Fisheries Management in New England

April 30, 2009

Documents the decline of the New England fishing industry as a result of mismanagement, presents examples of successful and sustainable fisheries, and examines the viability of proposed community-based, fishermen-run cooperatives as a solution.

IlIegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

January 1, 2009

This brief examines illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU, see Box 1) and considers the implications for fisheries policy in developing countries. It draws on work conducted by MRAG for DFID. This brief is part of a series concerning fisheries and development issues produced by MRAG and DFID.

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.