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The marine fisheries world-wide are characterized by a dualism in the form of coexistence of small-scale or artisanal fisheries side-by-side with large-scale or industrial fisheries.1 The dualism is not confined to the scale of operation but extends to the type of technology used, the degree of capital intensity, employment generation and ownership. In contrast to large-scale fisheries, artisanal fisheries are owner-operated and labour-intensive using little capital and hardly any modern technology.

Past development efforts have focussed almost exclusively on large-scale fisheries presumably in the belief that small-scale fisheries were only a temporary feature of the transition from artisanal to industrial fisheries. It was presumed that small-scale fishermen would either acquire the new technology and join the race for offshore and distant-water resource or they would find employment as crewmen in the large-scale fisheries. Alternatively, they could move to more lucrative occupations inland which presumably would have been generated by rapid economic growth.

However, after more than three decades of fisheries development, it is estimated that there are still about 10 million small-scale fishermen landing around 20 million tons of fish annually, which accounts for almost half the world marine catch used for direct human consumption (Thomson, 1980). Yet, with the exception of some motorization of canoes and the introduction of nylon nets, the fishing technology of small-scale fishermen in many parts of the world remained largely unchanged for decades. This, however, may have been a blessing in disguise for the economies of many developing countries which suffer from severe scarcity of capital and foreign exchange, ever-rising fuel-import bills and chronic underemployment. It has been estimated that the small-scale fishery uses one-fifth as much capital and one-fourth to one-fifth as much fuel per ton of fish landed and creates a hundred times more jobs per dollar invested than the large-scale fishery (Thomson, 1980). Yet in many developing countries, small-scale fishermen live close to or below the subsistence level or at any rate they are among the lowest socio-economic groups in the country (Smith, 1979; Panayotou, 1980; Panayotou et al., in press; Fredericks et al., in press; Librero et al., in press; and others).

Thus, the fundamental problem of small-scale fishermen around the developing world is their persisting absolute and relative poverty 2 despite decades of remarkable overall fisheries development and national economic growth. Clearly, they have neither adopted the advanced fishing technology nor did they find employment in the large-scale fishery or elsewhere as it was presumed, for reasons ranging from capital market distortions and the (consequent) capital intensity of the large-scale fishery to the limited mobility of the small-scale fishermen or the lack of alternative employment. Thus, there is a need to put small-scale fisheries in the right perspective and examine the available policy options for improving their socio-economic condition and maximizing their overall contribution to national economic and social development.

1 There is no standard definition of small-scale fisheries. There exist various classifications into small-scale and large-scale, into artisanal and commercial and into inshore and offshore according to vessel size (Indonesia, Philippines), gear type (Thailand), distance from shore (Hong Kong, Singapore) or a combination of the three (Malaysia). Thus, it is not unusual to find what is considered a small-scale fishery in one country to be classified as a large-scale fishery in another. As Smith (1979) pointed out such narrow definitions, though useful at the national level “are not so useful when attempting to gain a broad understanding of the traditional fisheries sector. Rather than attempting to be specific, therefore, one could more usefully talk about ranges or rough categorizations of the technical and socio-economic characteristics of the fishing activities of fishermen”. Our rough categorization in the present study is between those who have a broad spectrum of options both in terms of fishing grounds and non-fishing investment opportunities (large-scale fishermen) and those who, by virtue of their limited fishing range and a host of related socio-economic characteristics, are confined to a narrow strip of land and sea around their community, faced with a limited set of options, if any, and intrinsically dependent on the local resources (small-scale fishermen). It is in this context that the dualism in post-war fisheries development should be understood and tackled, despite the existence of few (or even many) intermediate cases.

2 The relative poverty of small-scale fishermen has been defined and measured not only by comparison to the national average level of income but also, and more significantly, in relation to incomes and amenities of similar socio-economic groups, e.g. farmers, other rural dwellers and urban workers (see studies in Panayotou, et al., in press).

The socio-economic problems of small-scale fishermen are currently attracting increased attention due to: (a) the realization that small-scale fisheries are not a transitory feature of fisheries development; (b) increased interest in improving the socio-economic conditions of low-income groups in general; and (c) the new opportunities for local fisheries made available by the declaration of extended fisheries jurisdictions. In response, governments in developing countries are considering development assistance measures for upgrading small-scale fisheries. However, such efforts may be frustrated without a thorough understanding of the factors responsible for their currently depressed situation and the existing potential for further development. Moreover, improving the standard of living of small-scale fishermen is but one of the objectives in a fisheries policy. Other, often competing, objectives are employment creation, increase in fish supplies for domestic consumption and exports, and maximization of the economic surplus generated by the fishery.

Thus, the objectives of the present study are: (a) to identify the constraints under which small-scale fisheries operate, i.e. the factors which have constrained income levels in the past and should be considered in any future development plans; (b) to analyze the likely effects of alternative management regulations and development programmes in the light of these constraints and of the new opportunities; (c) to review possible strategies for managing and developing small-scale fisheries in the broader context of overall national fishery management and rural development.

To address these issues, an analytical framework incorporating and integrating the biological, economic and social aspects of the small-scale fishery and its interface with other sectors of the national economy is necessary. For this purpose, we begin by briefly reviewing the basic concepts of fishery management. Having realized the lack of an appropriate analytical tool for the study of small-scale multispecies fisheries we proceed to develop a bio-socio-economic model which forms the conceptual framework for the remainder of the study.

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