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1.1 Background

At the close of the Second World War most of mankind looked forward hopefully to a period of peace, stability and international cooperation, which it was hoped would enable the various nations to apply the tools of science and technology to the problems of food production and industrial expansion, and thus to raise the standard of living of their peoples. This was reflected in the charter and aims of the United Nations Organization formed on the 24th October 1945. These included the promotion of economic and social progress and better living standards for all peoples.

From 1946 onwards as countries were able to put their economic machineries to work on a peace-time basis, they embarked on massive programmes of reconstruction, industrial growth and increased food production. Within fifteen years some scientists began to express concerns about the formidable implications of some aspects of this growth. By the end of the 1960's, pollution of the environment had become a matter of worldwide concern. In 1971 the “Club of Rome” produced their remarkable study on the limits to growth with its startling predications. Two major constraints to industrial expansion it brought into sharp focus were the finite and rapidly declining resources of minerals and fossil fuels, and the dangerous increase in pollution of the earth's life support system. Both the use of the finite resources, and the pollution of the environment were being increased by mankind at an exponential rate. The implications of this were most disturbing1.

A unique quantitative jump in industrial production had taken place since 1945. E.F. Schumacher summarized it thus in 1973. “In comparison with what is going on now, and what has been going on, progressively, during the last quarter of a century, all the industrial activities of mankind up to, and including, World War II are as nothing. The next four or five years are likely to see more industrial production, taking the world as a whole, than all of mankind accomplished up to 1945” 2. The five years Schumacher spoke of are already behind us, the resources they consumed gone forever, and the pollution they produced spread around the earth, contaminating air, food and water.

1 Meadows, D.H. et al. The Limits to Growth. London, Pan Books, 1972.

2 Schumacher, E.F. Small is Beautiful, Economics as if People Mattered. London, Blond and Briggs, 1973.

It is against this sombre background that the concept of “appropriate technology” was developed. The term is not really expressive enough, and it is not fully understood by many who are only vaguely aware of the impending crises in resource depletion and pollution increase which make appropriate technology a matter of vital importance to the survival of the human race.

Essential to the concept of appropriate technology are the following ideas:

Technology that reduces our dependance on fossil fuels and irreplaceable mineral resources.

Technology that does not pollute or poison our environment.

Technology that considers people before profits.

Technology that is low-cost and labour-intensive.

The last two points relate to the serious and growing problems created by the increasing consumption rates of the rich at the expense of the poor, and the almost cancerous growth of metropolis or megalopolis urban areas at the expense of the rural villages and regional development.

The development and application of truly appropriate technology on a world scale, and the radical change in attitudes and living patterns it necessitates, is a momentous and most challenging task for mankind. We can play our part at this conference by considering its implications for that sector of industry and food production that concerns us here -- the small scale fisheries of the world.

It would be tempting to say a little on the world's large scale fisheries, and possibly to draw attention to their failure to conserve fish stocks and their apparent disregard for the plight of the artisanal fisherman particularly in the poorer parts of the world. But that would accomplish little. Suffice it to note that the increase in fuel costs and the extension of national fishery limits have together put the world's deep sea fishing fleets in a precarious position. Some have disappeared altogether. In Britain, the formerly great fishery centers of Hull and Grimsby have been overtaken in importance by small scale fishery ports. Industrial fishing investments have created voracious monsters for the catching and processing of fish into meal for cattle and poultry. Many national fisheries with large industrial fishing components face grave economic disruption because the resource is simply not sufficient to supply the inflated demand.

But it is to the small scale fisheries we must turn our attention and especially to those of the less developed or poorer countries. These little units still produce the bulk of the world's fish catch. In terms of social importance they support by far the largest work force in fisheries. Many millions of fishermen and their families depend on small scale fishing for their livelihood. Their fleets of small fishing craft produce the fish that forms the economic basis for the existence of thousands of coastal villages.

What future have we to offer those fishermen and their dependents? Generally speaking they are at the bottom of the social ladder in terms of income, opportunity and amenities. In recent years we have seen the absurdity of trying to foist upon them equipment and technologies that brought them a greater relative increase in costs than in income. Within 10 years, fossil fuels may be prohibitively expensive in many underdeveloped countries which lack such resources. How can we equip the artisanal fisherman to prepare for that day? Do we increase his dependance on expensive western technology or do we provide him with any workable alternative? What of his family? Will his children join the drift to the cities to become bar-girls or bell-boys, or mere additions to the jobless squatters? What useful employment can they have? In Europe and North America it is now costing tens of thousands of dollars to create one work-place for each new employee. If that is the cost of employment what hope is there for the children of the small scale fishermen? If there are 5 million full time small scale fishermen in the Indo-Pacific region (and there are probably many more), then there are probably around 20 million children in the fishing villages. Do they face a jobless future?

Before considering what might be done to remedy matters for the small scale fishermen of the Indo-Pacific, perhaps we can pause to assess the effects of fishery development programmes over the past 20 or 30 years. How have governments and aid organizations affected the course of the development of small scale fisheries? Which programmes have been beneficial and which have been ineffective? Have some programmes even had a detrimental effect? What progress can we attribute to our efforts, and what to the natural diligence of the fishermen themselves? For study purposes we might categorize past programmes under the headings of management, mechanization, innovation, marketing, credit and training.

1.2 Mechanization and Technology

Since the introduction of steam engines in the late 19th century, and diesel engines in the early 20th century, mechanization of the fishing fleets has progressed by leaps and bounds. Engine power relative to vessel size has increased to the point at which the auxiliary engines in some modern craft are more powerful than the main engines of similar sized craft 30 or 40 years before. A 17-meter fishing vessel of the 1930's could be adequately powered by a 40 or 50 hp engine. Today many boats of that size have more than 5 times as much power. The average size of fishing vessels has also increased as has the size and capacity of fish plants. From 1976 to 1978 the number of fishing craft of 4,000 tons and over was more than doubled1. We have followed in fisheries the same pattern of industrial development as in manufacturing -- ever more large and complex capital-intensive units which have been energy wasteful, have tended to create unemployment and have often been guilty of polluting the environment and destroying natural resources. The application of these western industrialized patterns of development to third world countries has resulted in enormous social problems. It would seem obvious that countries with high levels of underemployment, low labour costs and limited local sources of oil, steel, chemicals, tin and cement, could only suffer more unemployment and greater foreign trade deficits by adopting such programmes. Yet that is what has happened to date. Very few fishery development programmes have really helped the small fishermen. Instead we have made his life more difficult by investing in large, expensive, foreign-built units and processing plants requiring advanced technology and high capital investment.

1 Diminishing Returns World Fishing, Vol. 28, No. 4, April 1979.

54×11 meters 3,200 hp

Figure 1

6×0.3 meters sail powered

Figure 2

1.3 Resource Management

Despite the accumulation of vast amounts of biological data on fish and fish stocks, and the appearance of a whole new generation of fishery scientists with access to electronic instruments, computers and equipment that their predecessors could only dream of, we have failed to manage our fleets or our stocks properly. One after another we have seen vast stocks of fish fall like ninepins into the endangered or over-harvested categories. Many of the species so affected were once amongst the most prolific in the ocean. The Peruvian anchovy, the South African pilchard, and the north Atlantic herring are among the most notable examples, but many demersal species have also been subject to intense fishing pressure. It is interesting to note that most cases of drastic stock reduction have been brought about by the fish meal industry. Where fish have been caught for human consumption, there has rarely been any drastic pressure on stocks1. The types of fishing gear prominent in most cases of overfishing have been the purse seine or the trawl net. As a general rule stocks have not been endangered by small scale fishing fleets, especially those using the more passive methods of line, jig, gill net, lift net and trap. Surprisingly in almost every clear case of overfishing, the section of the fishing industry to blame for the excessive catching effort was able to get the support of national fishery scientists until the stock reduction was all too evident.

1 Kurien, J. Entry of Big Business into Fishing. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 36. India, Sept. 9, 1978.

1.4 Innovation

But, it will be argued, has not the application of science and technology brought many benefits and improvements to people? Innovations in gear, vessels, processes and techniques has made it possible for many workers in the fishing industry to earn more and to enjoy a less arduous life. Within certain limits, it must be admitted, this is true. Synthetic twines and ropes have been a great boon to fishermen all over the world and have enabled them to increase productivity. Echo sounders have provided fishermen with a wonderful new capacity to locate fish and to find new fishing grounds. The construction of ice plants in hundreds of fishing ports has resulted in improved fish quality which in turn has attracted better prices. So it is obvious that some technical innovations have been good. The argument is not one in favour of no technology. It is one calling for appropriate technology rather than inappropriate technology. What ever technical innovations are made they should be such as have a beneficial effect on the people, on the natural resource, and on the environment, instead of being merely economically feasible or profit making. As far as the tropical artisanal fisheries are concerned, we have made very little effort to apply our ingenuity in these directions. Solar fish driers and desalination units are a very recent innovation although the technology is quite simple. A gentle combination of sail and power in fishing craft is only to be found on the west coast of the U.S.A. -- the most industrialized country in the world. For developing fisheries we have promoted complete mechanization regardless of cost. Our innovative technologies have been far too clearly linked to the financial interests of manufacturers in industrialized countries.

1.5 Marketing and Processing

For many centuries the agricultural and fisheries producer has been at the bottom of the socio-economic scale. He has not received an adequate return for his labour. The fisherman has been, if anything in an even more disadvantaged position than the farmer. Up until very recent times the market for fish was so uncertain, fishermen often had to dump their catches, give them away, or sell them for fish meal. The entrenched traditional system in marketing effectively separates the producer from the consumer. Generally speaking it has resulted in a situation in which a few middlemen could reap considerable rewards while the bulk of the fishermen could barely survive. The major risk was borne by the fisherman but the windfall profits went to the merchant. In tropical small scale fisheries this has been circumvented in a few, but very commendable, instances when the producers have been able to establish and operate their own cooperative marketing system1. If the fishing industry in the past failed to provide its producers with an adequate price for their product, it also frequently failed to provide the consumer with a satisfactory product. The world over, people prefer fresh fish. Few housewives will buy frozen or canned fish if the fresh product is available in good condition. Yet the bulk of our efforts in processing research have been towards high capital investment systems of freezing, canning, pre-cooking and dehydrating. Some of these systems were necessary for large industrialized countries. Now, given the extension of national fishery limits to 200 miles and the demise of most distant water fishing, one wonders whether they are appropriate there anymore. But for countries short of fuels, metals, machinery, and skilled personnel, they are surely inappropriate. Fish can be delivered fresh, at reasonable cost, with wise use of ice and insulation, over relatively short distances2. Fish can be preserved for longer journeys or storage periods, in good quality without any refrigeration or canning. For centuries the nations of Europe and Scandinavia used dried or salted fish as their staple winter protein3. Yet we have permitted the ancient science of fish curing to die unnoticed and have put very little effective research work into the development of cured fish of high quality. Such work could have resulted in low-cost, labour-intensive processing technologies which would have benefitted producer and consumer alike.

1 Manual on Fishermen's Cooperatives. FAO Fisheries Studies No. 13. 1971.

2 Ice in Fisheries. FAO Fisheries Report No. 59, Rev. 1. Rome, 1975.

3 Waterman, J. The Production of Dried Fish. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 160. Rome, 1976.

1.6 Credit

Few enterprises can flourish without capital and even the most wealthy entrepreneurs need to borrow money to finance their ventures. Slowly at first, but increasingly in recent years, we have provided credit for the development of our respective fishing industries. But who has received this credit, and how has it been used? Have we not largely financed big business and big landowners? How many cases are there of credit supplied to the neediest persons? Immediately we hear a chorus of protests. The small operator has been unable to use credit wisely; he has been a poor credit risk; he has not pioneered new fisheries or processes; many loan funds allocated to small scale fishermen have had to be written off. These comments have some basis; yet on careful examination they are often found to be shallow judgments. Worse still, one finds a double standard operating when we examine the small fisherman vis-a-vis the big businessman. For assuredly, not all big businessmen have been good credit risks, or wise investors, or pioneers. One need only take a quick look around the fisheries of the Indo-Pacific to find very many big fishing enterprises which failed -- many of them disastrously -- and which failed to repay the credit they borrowed to get established. On the other hand there are some notable examples of wise use of credit for small scale fisheries.

At the turn of the century the inshore fishermen of Britain used mainly sailboats and were generally very poor. Today they are a wealthy and productive segment of the industry, supplying most of the country's fish. Almost all of the vessels under 26 meters in length are owned or partly owned by the fishermen themselves. This has been made possible first by the application of bank credit, in the pre-war years, and later by a generous government grant and loan scheme. The Republic of Ireland started even later to provide credit to its fishermen, beginning in the early 1950's. Today they have one of the most modern fleets in Europe.

The question now is, why in fisheries development programmes, have we been so niggardly and inflexible on the subject of credit for small scale fishermen? A great deal of flexibility and imagination is needed in this field for the traditional bank philosophy on lending is certainly not appropriate to artisanal fishermen. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith commenting on the development of the American west indicates how necessary were the many risky bank ventures. They were and are harshly criticized, yet without them the “west would not have been won”1.

1.7 Training

When young David first volunteered to fight the Giant Goliath, King Saul tried to have him equipped with the best and heaviest mail and weapons in his armoury. Fortunately for David, he realized that the accoutrement would not help him. It was actually an encumbrance. It was inappropriate for him then. So he discarded it in favour of a sling and a few stones -- and won the battle.

1 Galbraith, J. K. Money, Whence it Came, Where it Went. U.S.A. & etc., Pelican Books, 1975.

During the past 20 years we have put enormous efforts into the education and training of fisheries personnel in developing countries. Yet we have often, albeit with good intentions, equipped the students with an education and training as inappropriate for them as the king's armour was for David. Our traditional systems of education have evolved slowly and have been moulded over the years by the ruling classes, the entrenched bureacracies, and the financial pressures of big business. Courses of study designed to produce technologists and engineers for the sophisticated, highly capitalized western industries have been offered without modification to students from countries whose development problems were totally different. Having studied expensive and complex systems abroad, the graduates on their return home have been frustrated to find they could not solve basic problems which required a simple, low-cost technology. To this day, fishery officers from poor countries are sent overseas at great cost, only to find themselves studying very advanced acoustical and even satellite systems of fish detection, factory ship design and operation, trawl net hydrodynamics, and huge freezing plants and refrigeration chains. Thus equipped they return to do battle with rural poverty on behalf of thousands of artisanal fishermen who need above all a low-cost, labour-intensive, and environmentally gentle technology. But the training is not appropriate, and so the battle remains to be won.

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