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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Key Factors Supporting Small-Scale Coastal Fisheries Management

April 15, 2014

This synthesis was designed to provide an evidence base on the success factors in small-scale coastal fisheries management in developing countries and, in turn, to assist the Rockefeller Foundation in developing its strategy for its Oceans and Fisheries Initiative. In doing so, it identifies and describes some 20 key factors believed to influence success in small-scale coastal fisheries management. The report was completed via a rapid review of key sources of knowledge from formal published literature, institutional literature, key informants and Internet searches. The focus was on key success factors in achieving a balance of social, economic and ecological benefits from the management of small-scale coastal fisheries. A summary of these success factors can also be explored via an interactive visualization that accompanies this report.

Payments for Ecosystem Services: Legal and Institutional Frameworks

January 1, 2009

Analysis and engagement with partners working on ecosystem services transactions, policies and laws over the past 10 years have demonstrated a clear need to better understand the legal and institutional frameworks that have the potential to promote or hinder the development of payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemes, as well as the complex legal considerations that affect ecosystem services projects. In response, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre and The Katoomba Group have worked on a joint initiative to analyze the legal and institutional frameworks of water-related PES schemes and projects in four Andean countries: South America (Northeastern)-Brazil; Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. It has resulted in this report. Country-based analysts with experience in ecosystem services transactions have developed country and project assessments to define existing and recommend future regulatory and institutional frameworks that enable equitable and long-lasting ecosystem services transactions. Partners from North America (Central America)-Costa Rica; North America-Mexico; Ecuador and the North America-United States provided feedback on the assessments. The country assessments yielded lessons which were used to develop a set of recommendations on legal frameworks, property rights, enabling institutions, PES contracts, and governance issues supporting the future development of PES schemes.

Community Management of Natural Resources in Africa: Impacts, Experiences and Future Directions

January 1, 2009

More than twenty years have passed since community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) rose to prominence in different parts of Africa as a strategy for rural development, local empowerment, and conservation. Led by new ideas about the merits of decentralized, collective resource governance regimes, and creative field experiments such as Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE, these community-based approaches evolved in a wide range of ecological, political, and social contexts across Africa. This review provides an unprecedented pan-African synthesis of CBNRM, drawing on multiple authors and a wide range of documented experiences from Southern, Eastern, Western and Central Africa. The review discusses the degree to which CBNRM has met poverty alleviation, economic development and nature conservation objectives. In its concluding chapter, the report suggests a way forward for strengthening CBNRM and addressing key challenges in the years ahead.

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: 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.

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.

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.

Analytical Appendix 2: The Challenges of Managing Small Scale Fisheries in West Africa

October 20, 2004

This is the Final Technical Report to the DFID regarding The Management of Conflict in Tropical Fisheries project R7334. Ghana's small-scale marine fisheries face considerably less problems and challenges than its neighbours. There is no foreign industrial fleet competing with canoes for resources and the economy, although weakened, is comparatively stronger than other West African fishing nations. However, like many other coastal fishing nations, Ghana is still trying to find a successful means of marrying two different systems. The traditional management system, which, for generations has sustained small-scale fishing communities along the coast, is under threat from the modern management system that sees fish as a commodity for trading by entrepreneurs, rather than the basis for an entire way of life. Economic difficulties that stem from Ghana's commitment to neo-liberal economic reforms have further complicated the situation. State priorities and policies with regard to poverty alleviation in coastal communities are dictated largely by outside interests rather than internal needs. As the economy and economic policy has focused on the individual and the market, so the role of community, and indeed traditional systems has come under threat. This battle between the two systems is being played out in the arena of small-scale fisheries management. Increased competition, decreased enforcement and a failure to support traditional systems is putting increasing pressure of small-scale fishing communities. Although recent initiatives by the World Bank to reverse this trend are having some impact, the future for traditional fisheries management of small-scale fisheries in Ghana looks bleak.

Changing Fish Utilisation and Its Impact on Poverty in India: Major Trends in the Utilisation of Fish in India and Their Impact on the Poor

December 1, 2001

This publication is an output from a research project (R7999) funded by the United Kingdom DFID Post-Harvest Fisheries Research Programme Project for the benefit of developing countries. The project was called: Changing Fish Utilisation and Its Impact on Poverty in India. The project aims to develop policy guidance to increase the positive impact of improved post-harvest utilisation of fish on the lives of poor processors, traders and consumers in India. Throughout this report the project is referred to as the IFU project.