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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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."

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.

Livelihood Diversification In Coastal and Inland Fishing Communities: Misconceptions, Evidence and Implications for Fisheries Management

June 1, 2008

This is the working paper regarding the Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP). Diversification is a process by which households engage in multiple income generating activities. It is widely seen in the academic literature and international development arena as a strategy for spreading risk and reducing vulnerability. The formulation of policies promoting diversification is thus encouraged at national levels to alleviate poverty. However, such policies involve delicate choices and trade-offs between government objectives of development, e.g. intensification of agriculture and increase in agricultural outputs to satisfy export markets, versus increased household well-being and resilience to adversity through the promotion of small-scale, household-based, activities. In the context of fisheries, diversification is promoted as a means for reducing dependence on the resource, making restrictive management easier and less controversial for those affected by such measures. This often interprets diversification as job-substitution (stop fishing, do something else) rather than adding other activities to an income-portfolio. With the tendency for increasing pressure on fishery resources, it becomes ever more necessary to address in a coherent way diversification and its links with both poverty reduction and responsible fisheries. Implications of the development of alternative or complementary activities alongside a main, resource-dependent activity such as fishing, may echo those experienced by sectors such as agriculture and pastoralism. However, many characteristics of the fishing activity and of those who engage in it are particular to the sector. General poverty alleviation policies and fisheries management schemes have been found to lack the necessary differentiation and to fail to cater for the specific needs of fishing communities (Smith et al. 2005). The lack of attention -- or misplaced attention through maladapted policies -- that the sector and the communities it supports have received so far can be traced to a number of misconceptions stemming from "the old paradigm on poverty in small-scale fisheries" (Béné, 2003, p950). These assumptions include that (after Béné 2003, Allison and Ellis 2001): -- Fishing is an ingrained activity in fishing communities and fishermen will not leave fishing for cultural reasons. -- Fishermen are specialised and carry out fishing on a professional basis only. -- Fishing is a last resort activity and fishermen are unable to diversify into other income-generating activities. -- Fisheries development and development of fishing communities is not possible without increasing fishing effort. -- Livelihood diversification in fishing communities cannot go hand in hand with a sustainable natural resources management that encompasses both sustainable fisheries management and poverty alleviation. It is the aim of this paper to challenge these assumptions. Because of its linkages with resource management, looking at diversification in fishing communities involves re-exploring the issue from a different perspective than its current interpretation and most widely-encountered application to agricultural (land-based)-livelihoods. Despite the potential broad remit of this task, the objective here is to remain focused on the necessity to dispel misconceptions and show the need to formulate policies that support the engagement of fisherfolk and their families in multiple activities. By doing so, the paper shall also provide a compilation and review of available information related to diversification in fishing communities and point out the complexity of the issue of diversification in these communities. The geographical scope of the paper is global, guided by the availability of case study material, though reference to the West African experiences of the Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP) is made wherever possible. Unless expressed otherwise, the terms 'fisheries' or 'fishers' make implicit reference to artisanal fisheries and the small-scale operations and modus operandi of those relying on them.

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.

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.

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.

Coral Reef Fisheries Literature Review and Database Research Report, Final Technical Report

March 1, 1992

First, coral reef fisheries literature references were obtained and organised into a computer database and a user manual produced. Second, a comprehensive review article summarising and interpreting the disparate literature was written and distributed along with the database. The database and accompanying review should assist research and management of coral reef fisheries in developing countries. In the original project memorandum, it was stated that initial emphasis would be placed on fin-fish fisheries. This emphasis has been maintained throughout the project