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Understanding of the causes of poverty in relation to small-scale fisheries

In order to make fisheries management work, there is a need to address the factors that most immediately and directly threaten the sustainability of fisherfolk’s livelihoods. Often, these factors are not related to their fishing activities and the status of the resource. Neither are most of them specific to fishing communities, but apply to a greater or lesser degree, to the poor in general and especially to the rural poor living in remote areas with little access to social services.

Many artisanal fishing families continue to rank among the most disadvantaged groups of the population, together with landless agricultural labourers and marginal farmers. The incidence of absolute poverty is probably high but there are few studies on the extent of poverty in fishing communities. Availability and access to social services in fishing communities is often below average resulting in low educational attainment and poor health conditions.

Poverty is complex

Understanding the complexities and nature of poverty is the first step in understanding the vulnerability of small-scale fishers. Poverty cannot be reversed, let alone dealt with, by using simple technology transfer and capital investments through a sectoral approach. The correct diagnosis of poverty is a crucial first starting point for any development assistance and must consider the overall economic, social and political system. Poverty and politics/institutions are closely related. Fisheries development can often be constrained by ineffective government, inappropriate institutional arrangements and control by priveleged few. So it is necessary to think carefully in each context about what are the chances and effective mechanisms for making changes that will reduce poverty while satisfying the rich and powerful at the same time - what will create a win-win situation.

Sustainable Livelihoods Approach 

The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) is a useful analytical tool that can be used to understand fishing communities, their level of dependence on the fish resources, their ability to engage in alternative livelihoods activities as well as the broader legal and institutional constraints in which they operate. It is a multisectoral approach based on participation of the stakeholders that makes it particularly relevant to identifying the nature and causes of poverty in the context of small-scale fisheries.

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