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The Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP) experience

An important experience of the SFLP was the affirmation of the value of applying new working methods to address the issues relating to the promotion of responsible fisheries and poverty reduction in fishing communities. In many views these have been considered to be opposing objectives. Thus many approaches to fisheries management seek to control access or reduce effort, potentially marginalizing or excluding the poor from access to resources. Conversely an aim to increase incomes of fishing communities through increased exploitation of resources can threaten sustainability. The SFLP approach has attempted to challenge this assumption, essentially by proposing that poverty can be addressed – indeed needs to be, through a wider perspective than that of resource exploitation alone. Addressing poverty is not necessarily about increasing incomes through increasing fish catches, but about understanding and dealing with vulnerability, and exploring wider livelihood options, in and outside the sector. It is also about improving access to services to reduce vulnerability and ensuring the inclusion of stakeholders and marginalised groups in institutional processes.
Applying this perspective, experience within 25 West and Central African countries has shown that not only it is possible to reconcile poverty reduction and responsible fishing together, but it is necessary to tackle them both for the long term sustainability of fisheries livelihoods. These main lessons learnt could serve as a source of information and inspiration for further work with small-scale fishing communities, in West and Central Africa, as well as elsewhere.

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