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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Governance of Tenure in Small-Scale Fisheries: Key Considerations

June 1, 2011

This paper examines the recognition, development and reinforcement of tenure systems in small-scale fisheries, and the conditions for those tenure systems to be effective and fair. Good governance of tenure requires that rights to access fishery resources (use rights) and rights to be involved in fishery decision-making (management rights) are linked to social, economic and human rights. This leads to a modern and more comprehensive view of rights-based fisheries governance, recognizing not only the need for rights, but also the need for attention to the details of those rights, to avoid negative impacts. This paper explores (a) the links of fishery tenure systems to use rights, management rights and human rights; (b) the dynamics of tenure, including processes for determining who should hold the rights and recognition of pre-existing tenure arrangements; and (c) the roles of organizational capacity, legal space, and empowerment, together with the relationship of fishery tenure to the broader objectives of development policy, such as community well-being, food security and poverty alleviation.

Poverty, Sustainability and Human Wellbeing: A Social Wellbeing Approach to the Global Fisheries Crisis

January 9, 2011

The purpose of this paper is to explore the extent to which a social wellbeing approach can offer a useful way of addressing the policy challenge of reconciling poverty and environmental objectives for development policy makers. In order to provide detail from engagement with a specific policy challenge it takes as its illustrative example the global fisheries crisis. This crisis portends not only an environmental disaster but also a catastrophe for human development and for the millions of people directly dependent upon fish resources for their livelihoods and food security. The paper presents the argument for framing the policy problem using a social conception of human wellbeing, suggesting that this approach provides insights which have the potential to improve fisheries policy and governance. By broadening the scope of analysis to consider values, aspirations and motivations and by focusing on the wide range of social relationships that are integral to people achieving their wellbeing, it provides a basis for better understanding the competing interests in fisheries which generate conflict and which often undermine existing policy regimes.

Good Practices in the Governance of Small-Scale Fisheries, with a Focus on Rights-Based Approaches

October 1, 2010

Climate change, operating through related physical changes (e.g. sea level, ocean temperature) has biological implications (e.g. changes in primary productivity) which in turn produce direct impacts on human uses of the ocean (e.g., fishing, tourism, ports) and broader induced impacts on human society (e.g., social, economic, community). In fisheries, the effects of climate change are bound to interact with the effects of fishing, in their cumulative impacts on fish stocks, and on human aspects of the fishery system. It is important to recognize that the overall approach to, and the specific components of, fisheries management will have major effects on this interaction. Accordingly, this paper explores two main considerations. First, socioeconomic and behavioural aspects of fisheries need to be monitored in the face of climate change, as these will likely have strong management and assessment implications. Second, the need to address the combination of climate change and fishing as forcing factors in fisheries reinforces the necessity for adopting a broad-based precautionaryapproach to management decision making, and for re-designing management systems so that their structure and methods are more robust and adaptive.

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.

Policy Reform Impact Assessment, Cambodia: Impacts of the Fisheries Policy Reforms in Kampong Cham, Pursat and Takeo Provinces

January 1, 2004

This assessment report created in 2004 provides a review of the fisheries policy reforms introduced in Cambodia in October 2000 and the impacts of these reforms on poverty in Cambodia, on food security, on ecology, on institutional arragements, on fisheries resources and on different fisheries stakeholders.

Poverty and Reefs: Volume 1 A Global Overview

January 1, 2003

The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) provided legal support to the CBFM-2 project and in particular to the 130 Community Based Organisations established under the project. The project was implemented against an uncertain legal background due to many changes in the way that wetlands and fisheries in Bangladesh have been managed over recent decades. Many of the key interventions, such as sanctuaries have yet to receive legal recognition. Many currently accepted norms and practices have come about through gazette notifications or individual decisions rather than being supported by Acts or clear policies. This paper outlines the legal background for community managed fisheries in Bangladesh and the challenges faced during implementation of the project. It also suggests what needs to happen if community managed fisheries are to become more widespread in Bangladesh.

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.

A Study of DFID's Support for Post-Cyclone Livelihoods Rehabilitation In Orissa, India

March 1, 2001

The recent UK Government Foresight Project on Global Food and Farming Futures recognises the intensifying pressure on the world's food system that we can expect in the next 40 years. Meeting the challenges these pressures present will require concerted effort by many research communities, among them those that focus on fisheries. In recent years there has been a growth in research pointing to the importance and potential of fisheries in a development and food security context. As a major source of animal protein, especially for poor consumers in developing countries, securing and making the most of the world's fisheries remains an important priority (Béné et al., 2007; World Bank/FAO/WorldFish, 2010). In parallel, after a period of disillusionment following the failures of investments in fisheries projects in the 1970s and 80s (Cunninghamet al., 2009; NFDS, 2009), interest in supporting this sector through foreign aid is returning. Not surprisingly, this resurgence of interest aligns with the renewed focus on agriculture and food security, following relative neglect in the 1990s (World Bank, 2008). With increasing interest in investing development aid in fisheries, it is legitimate to ask what recent research has to offer by way of guidance. In this short paper we summarise the potential significance of several emerging areas of fisheries research and management for helping secure and enhance fish supplies from wild harvesting in support of food security in the developing world. Our focus is on small-scale fisheries, for reasons summarised below, these fisheries present a critical frontier in the challenge to increase the contribution of fish to poverty reduction and sustainable development.We have selected four areas –loosely titled 'Small-scale fisheries' (highlighting gender and inland fisheries), 'Governance reform', 'Resilience in practice' and 'External drivers'. Although more conventional fisheries topics such as effort reduction, fish stock sustainability and gear technology remain important, we feel these other broad areas of inquiry offer particular promise for supporting development efforts. Our intention is to provide readers with a short accessible introduction to these topics and to provide entry points to some of the recent literature.