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Special thanks to Koichi Tahara and Ulf Wijkström, Fishery Policy and Planning Division, FAO, for their support, coordination, suggestions and encouragement through every phase of preparing this document. Thanks also to the case-study authors, independent experts, and other members of the FAO Fisheries Department for their enriching contributions, and to the Government of Japan for providing the funding that made this project possible.

Author's full address:

James R. McGoodwin
Department of Anthropology
Campus Box 233
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309


FAO Fisheries Department
FAO Regional and Country Representatives
FAO Regional Fishery Officers
FAO Fisheries Field Projects

McGoodwin, J.R.

Understanding the cultures of fishing communities: a key to fisheries management and food security.

FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 401. Rome, FAO. 2001. 287p.


The purpose of this paper is to help fisheries officials better understand the cultures of small-scale fishing communities. By doing so they will be better prepared to develop more successful management policies and practices, and to help people in such communities to have more decent lives. The paper discusses cultural characteristics of small-scale fishing communities that are particularly important for fisheries officials to understand. Methods which might help fisheries managers to obtain trustworthy and reliable information about fishing cultures in an ethical manner are also suggested, including methods for rapidly acquiring important information while working within tight budgetary and time constraints. Recommendations appearing near the end of the paper provide guidance concerning how the foregoing objectives can be achieved, underscoring the importance of sustaining small-scale fishers' rights of access to fisheries resources while making their cultures integral considerations in fisheries-management policies and practices. Six case studies of contemporary small-scale fishing communities from distinct world-culture regions are annexed at the end, richly exemplifying many of the issues discussed in the paper.

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