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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Fisheries and Aquaculture and Their Potential Roles in Development: An Assessment of the Current Evidence

June 15, 2013

Commissioned by the International Sustainability Unity, this report investigates a number of innovative solutions that have been developed to deal with five key challenges that are impeding progress in achieving sustainable fisheries: overcapacity; perverse subsidies; poor governance; lack of data; and by-catch and discards. These key challenges are interlinked and affect the sustainability of fisheries both directly as well as indirectly by undermining instances of good management. Through 22 case studies demonstrating good practice, we explore how these challenges have been addressed around the world and how these approaches might be scaled up and applied in other fisheries. Each case study draws on published material and interviews with key people involved in the fishery. The main report draws lessons from these case studies.

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.

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.

Lessons for Co-management: Experiences from the Fisheries Management Science Programme (FMSP)

November 5, 2006

The aim of this document is to communicate lessons for fisheries co-management that have emerged from a series of projects undertaken by the DFID Fisheries Management Science Programme (FMSP). It focuses on three examples of FMSP projects: ParFish, Adaptive learning and designing data collection systems. This document does not aim to give a comprehensive overview of co-management but seeks to provide a viewpoint based on the experiences of the FMSP projects in question. This document is targeted to fisheries decision makers, managers and facilitators including government, industry and non-governmental organisations.

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.

Approaches to Improving CPR Management Performance in Developing Countries: Best Practice

November 1, 2005

The apparent and widespread lack of success over the past 50 years in attempting to manage the exploitation of Common Pool Resources in a sustainable manner is a serious concern for society. Governments recognise that they are losing out on potential benefits for development and growth, while primary stakeholders such as fishers and forest peoples recognise the threat to their livelihoods. In the specific case of fisheries, one of the major responses to the problem by scientists has been to attempt to better understand the factors affecting fisheries management performance, and in turn to develop new and alternative approaches to the challenges and opportunities presented. It is also important to review and learn from the experience of using these new approaches, and to establish 'best practice' for fisheries management across the world. In this third Key Sheet funded by the DFID Fisheries Management Science Programme, a range of new approaches which can contribute to improved fisheries management in Developing Countries will be considered, based on the findings of the FMSP.

Synthesis of FMSP Experience and Lessons Learned for Fisheries Co-Management, Final Technical Report

October 31, 2005

In November 2012, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) set the terms of reference for a commissioned assessment of fisheries and aquaculture science. The task was to complete a "scoping review", consisting of an in-depth assessment of the existing evidence related to fisheries and aquaculture activities in developing countries and their contribution to economic growth, food security and nutrition. For this the assessment was expected to identify the existing evidence and 'evidence in the pipeline' (i.e. to be published imminently) from the existing literature, compile it, and provide an assessment of the strength (in the sense, scientific rigor) of that evidence, and identify knowledge or evidence gaps. In addition the assessment was to be complemented by a mapping of existing relevant interventions in fisheries and aquaculture. In order to conduct this assessment, the team of consultants adopted a six step methodological protocol that allowed them to assess in a consistent manner the scientific quality of the documents included in the assessment, based on quality, size and consistency of the evidence. After scanning, 202 documents were retained. The main evidences from these 202 documents were organised under two main threads: (i) Developmental outcomes, including food security; nutrition; health; economic growth and (ii) Mediating factors focusing on governance; and gender.

Understanding the Factors that Support or Inhibit Livelihood Diversification in Coastal Cambodia

September 1, 2005

The DFID funded Aquatic Resource Dependency and Benefit Flows Project (ARDB) was a short research project (from January 2005 until August 2005) implemented by IMM of the UK, the Community Fisheries Development Office (CFDO) of the Department of Fisheries (DoF) and the Community Based Natural Resource Management Learning Institute (CBNRM LI), both based in Cambodia. It had two aims: 1) to build capacity amongst government and NGO staff in understanding the importance of livelihood diversification as a potential tool for natural resource management, and 2) to further our understanding of how factors that support or inhibit rural household diversification may apply in the Cambodian coastal context and beyond. The current report reviews the background to, and the findings of, that research.