Re: Implementing the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

Concern 3 University of Guyana, Guyana

Challenges and opportunities – needs for support and interventions

According to the FAO’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report 2012, more than 90% of all capture fishers are operating in the small-scale sector, with women playing a key role in post-harvest activities. The livelihoods of about 357 million people, primarily in developing countries, depend on the sector which often constitutes a fundamental way of life as well as an important economic activity. These guidelines establish principles and criteria for the elaboration and implementation of policies and strategies for the enhancement of small-scale fisheries governance and development. It also provides practical guidance for implementation of these policies and strategies. However, theses guideline are subject to challenges as it regards to the implementation process.

Meeting present and future food needs, ensuring environmental integrity and providing income and employment in the fishery sector is a balancing act given the finite productive capacity of resources and a complex challenge given the uncertainty over this productivity. However, addressing these issues is what makes governance possibly the most complex of the challenges. There are potentially many stakeholders who may wish to gain access to, or control over fisheries resources or influence management decisions. These  individuals and groups may have very differing views of what sustainability is, based  on their world views and attitudes to risk, and therefore what sorts of priorities, decisions and outcomes would be appropriate for a fishery.

Due to poverty and vulnerability, small-scale fishing communities may lack the incentives to participate in resource management and these aspects of poverty need to be addressed first, or simultaneously. Appropriate incentive structures (institutional, legal, economic, and social) are needed to enable small-scale fishing communities to sustainably manage the aquatic resources they and future generations depend on for their well-being without jeopardizing their social and economic development.

It is important to create opportunities for exchange of views among stakeholder groups to learn from each other. Accordingly, for both implementation and monitoring along with the development of capacity at all levels, appropriate institutional arrangements are required, including partnerships for policy formulation and involvement of grassroots level organizations. Partnerships among all stakeholders are critical for this process. Many opportunities for establishing and strengthening these partnerships already exist and given financial and human resource constraints, existing platforms and institutional arrangements should be used for this purpose. Fisheries agencies for example could interact with peers in other countries and regional organizations (e.g. in Africa, NEPAD Sub-regional Fisheries Commission, in Asia, SEAFDEC, ASEAN, SPC etc.) could play a critical role in facilitating regional, sub regional and national implementation strategies and plans focusing on the issues pertinent to the specific regions and countries.

 In the Philippines for example, the Fisheries Code endorses the establishment of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils, formed by fisheries organizations, cooperatives and NGOs at the national, municipal and village level, which are mandated to carry out a number of advisory functions in close collaboration with the local government units. Existing inter-sectoral processes and collaborative arrangements such as for climate change adaptation, coastal zone management or socio-economic development and planning at different level are other potential entry points.

FURTHER READINGS: Toward sustainable fisheries management by M.R.A.G.

Supporting instruments for the Implementation of small fisheries guidelines

A key starting point in establishing a sustainable platform can be capacity building of users within targeted zones. By zones we mean fishing areas where several communities or tribes derive their living. Training and education organized through private public partnership can serve as instruments to sensitize users of risks associated with poor practices relative to that of a sustainable behavior. Education in this context of sustainability needs to be mindful of the user background especially in developing countries (DC). Many fishers in DC are so by possibly culture or socialization. Hence, terms such as open access, replenishing rate, depletion and so on may have little value. This form of education must be specialized so that the issues are clearly understood. In addition, information dissemination through technological sources where possible can also provide a ready source of prompt response to users with uncertainty regarding usage of these zones. Training will target best practices.

Odusina identified the role of advocacy as a critical component in supporting the implementation of voluntary guideline of SSF. However, by extension, the nature of advocacy should also focus on empowering citizens not only for change but to enforce change. This enforcement capacity has been the weakness of several types of implementations whether it be laws or otherwise. Therefore, to ensure cohesion between guidelines and practice capacity needs to be built so that enforcement is achievable. When enforcement is possible, accountability across all levels becomes a realistic objective.

One of the engines to support the implementation process is partnerships. By partnerships we mean lobbying governments in DC to provide an enabling environment for the Private Sector, NGO, Civil Society, FBO and other organization to freely participate in the process of implementation. Legislative protection must also be part of this partnership framework. It would be difficult for some of these groups to work effectively in potentially challenging environment without a sense of protection. It is natural for people to try to circumvent at some point, rules they may have agreed to sometime in the past. Therefore legislative enactments serve as a deterrent motivating factor.   

Finally, to achieve optimal compliance some form of verification and monitoring should be established. Where zones require the use of small boats licensing, would be insufficient to influence operators to adhere to these rules since a cost may be imposed. Therefore to the extent whereby deviation of standard practice is observed a form of corrective measure should be applied to ensure that norms are upheld.