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5. Bridging the gap between research and action

This research agenda has been developed to assist researchers construct new approaches for the evaluation and management of small-scale fisheries. To achieve impact, the more traditional biotechnical approaches of many fisheries agencies must be augmented by substantial contributions from socio-economic research.

In many cases DOFs are structured and staffed with an emphasis on northern hemisphere approaches to stock assessment. Whilst resource assessment and monitoring remain key functions, the emphasis of the research agenda presented here is on policy formulation and socio-economic research. This means working in a participatory way with individuals, fisher groups, communities and assorted management entities. Research will involve conducting livelihood analyses, and analyses of policy processes and effects. Many national fisheries bodies, particularly in developing countries, are not currently well equipped to undertake such research. To fully engage with the demands of the research agenda, there will have to be a substantial shift in the approaches espoused by national fisheries authorities (and by policy-makers). However, fashioning linkages to other centers of expertise in these issues will be key steps in addressing the research agenda. These include, for example, universities, ministries of planning, international organizations experienced in community and co-management approaches, and regional management bodies - in which experiences, expertise and approaches to research and management issues for small-scale fisheries can be shared.

For the research agenda to have its full effect, an enabling environment for its conduct, and the sharing of results, must be fostered. Incentives are required to ensure that stakeholders become involved in fisheries research. It also requires, for instance, that policy-makers be receptive to the needs and requirements of small-scale and not just industrial fisheries. However, interactions will not be confined to the fisheries sector, but also with other aspects of national and local planning (e.g. development, agricultural labour policy, water and coastal use etc.) which will require increased liaison and sharing of information.

Research will be important to inform policies that contribute to sustainable small-scale fisheries, and should play an important role in empowerment, advocacy, and mobilization of resources. The number and types of end users of research is large and will include policymakers, donor organizations, fishers and fish workers, and civil society organizations.

Bridging the gap between research and action may be largely achieved by including more stakeholders in research, especially the end users in the form of fishers and fish workers. This would make it more demand-led and increase ownership, and ensure that results are more likely to be fed back to the end users.

Research and communication go hand-in-hand and there is a need for the development of effective communication techniques so that research results can be well presented in a way that is easily understood by the target audience. In the presentation of research the implications should be clearly explained: good research may not result in good actions for political reasons unless the benefits and implications are clearly explained.

The timing requirements of research are very important. Good research to really understand complex realities takes considerable time, whereas the market demand for research may require much quicker delivery. Researchers need to adapt their research to better suit market needs as well as managing the expectations of the end users. A case in point will be the need to quickly establish the effects of globalization of trade on small-scale fisheries.

Research will be aided by effective horizontal consultation and co-ordination amongst institutions, stakeholders and civil society organizations. In this regard, research will be most effective if it is imbedded in a review and planning process, and this should help to solve some of the problems of bridging the gap between researchers and users of the information by making research more action-orientated.

In many settings, human capacity is insufficient, and must be considered as a crucial and long-term requirement to improve the linkages between research and action[6]. Staff retention and incentives are important issues, and donor-funded research programmes should include aspects of capacity-building.

The importance of funding for research and support services is evident but must be clearly stated to ensure support for a global approach to small-scale fisheries in concert with the development community. The co-management approach promoted in this brief is a good way to begin to mobilize structured support and to conduct research collaboratively between fishers and fish workers, national departments of fisheries, development donors and other stakeholders.

More cognizance of small-scale fisheries will result from their explicit rather than implicit inclusion in international and national instruments governing fisheries. Draft guidelines for small-scale fisheries are to be prepared by FAO for inclusion into the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Such guidelines should consider the special importance of small-scale fisheries to small island developing states. Valuation and assessments of small-scale fisheries will ensure their incorporation in international efforts to establish systems of economic and environmental accounting for fisheries, and hence augment the profile of this critically important fisheries sub-sector.


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[6] See Macfadyen and Huntington (2003) for a fuller description of capacity building requirements.

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