FERU hosts the Too Big to Ignore workshop "Fishing Futures"

Andrea Haas

Last month, we were privileged to host a workshop here at the Fisheries Centre within the framework of The Global Partnership for Small-Scale Fisheries Research, Too Big to Ignore.  The workshop, called Fishing Futures, brought together partners, independent researchers, consultants, students and fishers from North America to discuss current issues facing small-scale fisheries, mainly in North America, in order to find possible solutions.

Too Big to Ignore (TBTI), is a research network and knowledge mobilization partnership initiated in 2012 and established to rectify the marginalization of small-scale fisheries in national and international policies, and to create research and governance capacity to tackle global fisheries challenges. The main topics to be addressed by Too Big To Ignore are divided into 7 Working Groups:

  1. Information System;
  2. Economic viability;
  3. Livelihoods and wellbeing;
  4. Ecosystem stewardship;
  5. Access and rights;
  6. Governance; and
  7. Outreach.

In addition to the division into Working Groups, the global partnership has focus groups for each continent.

While no single definition of small-scale fisheries (SSF) exists because it is an extremely contextual term (see FERU “Talking Fish” blog post “The smaller the bigger?” by Anna Schuhbauer posted 07/03/2013), SSF have many commonalities, mainly because most SSF are facing the same or at least very similar problems and threats. Some of those challenges are: marginalization, bad governance, ineffective management, low economic performance, and pressure from globalization and global change such as climate change.

At the TBTI workshop, we were privileged to draw on backgrounds from anthropologists, biologists, economists, sociologists, and fishers themselves.  Presentations were diverse and ranged from Aboriginal participation and their historical contribution to fisheries, to recreational fisheries, economic viability and fisheries community-based management.  Access rights and catch shares management of fisheries and their associated potential to marginalize small-scale fishers was at the center of several presentations.

Solutions were discussed and some presentations illuminated how the collective action of fishers creating cooperatives and other autonomous fishery management practices can help to overcome their marginalization.  Developing indicators to measure the social aspect of fisheries were amongst some of the presentations that broadened the scope of this workshop.  The last day of the workshop identified gaps specific to North American SSF, such as environmental history, legislative implications, and under-representation of regions such as Mexico and the southern United States in the research.

‘Windows of opportunity’ became the key-phrase of the workshop; seizing the perfect moment to apply research results.  We have learned a great deal in a short period of time, and future workshops will continue to address the challenges and find solutions to the problems facing small-scale fisheries all over the world.

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