Too Big To Ignore explores challenges to sustainable development of local fisheries

Two years after FAO member states agreed to adopt a human rights-based approach to governing the small-scale fisheries in their countries, researchers invested in the development of small-scale fisheries have released a book outlining progress made in implementing those reforms and the challenges in doing so.

The book, “Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines: Global Implementation,”  reviews countries' efforts thus far to implement the human rights-based principles, otherwise known as  Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, at the local level. Comprising essays and case studies by more than 90 authors from academia, the FAO, and civil society, it also considers the need to contextualize the guidelines to fit local circumstances.

Edited by researchers associated with Too Big To Ignore, a research network and global partnership dedicated to the promotion and support of small-scale fisheries, the book considers case studies in 34 countries, including the Pacific, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Explaining the need for such research, lead editor for the book, Svein Jentoft, a sociologist and professor at the Norwegian College of Fishery Science at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, said small-scale fishers  are often economically marginalized. They are frequently “confronted with neoliberal policies that aim at privatization and exclusion rather than human rights and community welfare,” he said.

“For small-scale fisheries people who are poor and vulnerable, such policies can have devastating impacts,” Jentoft said in an email to SeafoodSource, “Lessons from small-scale fisheries in the north, which has been exposed to such policies for decades, have relevance for small-scale fisheries in the south.”

Fisheries must remain informal and accessible to the poor as a means of livelihood and security, he added.

“This book is basically looking forward, and discusses what the challenges and opportunities are for [SSF guidelines] implementation. No one expects that the implementation process is going to be easy, as the SSF Guidelines call for policy and institutional reform, which for some countries is likely to be substantial,” Jentoft said. “In some instances, there are considerable overlaps between what is and what should be according to the SSF Guidelines; in other situations, there are gaps that would need to be filled.”

The SSF guidelines have been embraced by several small-scale fishing organizations in the Caribbean, as well as by the region’s governments. In May 2017, the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), comprising government ministers from 17 Caribbean countries, officially endorsed a protocol to incorporate the SSF Guidelines into the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy, with emphasis on adding gender and human rights based approaches to the regional fisheries policy.

“The implementation of the SSF Guidelines [is] an ongoing process, as the problems that the Guidelines are addressing, like human rights and environmental issues, are not going away. The implementation would therefore require commitment in the long run by states and civil society organizations,” Jentoft said.


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