Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Member profile

Michèle Mesmain

Organization: Slow Food
Country: Italy
I am working on:

Slow Fish, an international network and campaign dedicated to responsible fisheries

This member contributed to:

    • Through the development of Slow Fish, an international network and campaign dedicated to responsible fisheries, Slow Food aims to:

      • Develop local messages to address the complexity of the issue, and help citizens become active and informed consumers (defined by Slow Food as “co-producers”).
      • Give value back to small-scale fisheries; a living heritage and asset of our societies, which retains the local knowledge and economic structures that can help to restore and maintain jobs in our coastal communities.
      • Recreate a direct link between fishers and consumers (which has been severed by recent distribution practices and the flow of cheap imports), and thus put fishers higher up in a responsible value chain.
      • Spread knowledge about the variety of existing species and the seasonality of seafood.
      • Highlight that oceans, lakes and waterways are a common resource that belong to us all, and are therefore a shared responsibility.

      In order to do this we:

      • Facilitate the creation and development of local alliances - between fishers, chefs, researchers, consumers, farmers, local NGOs and CSOs - to find collective local responses to the challenges facing food production and environmental management, as well as the safeguarding of our cultures and identities.
      • Develop fun, tasty, participative and engaging activities, in ports, farmers’ markets, fishmonger shops, etc., as well as during national and international events, centred on dialogue, sharing of experiences and knowledge exchange, designed for children and adults alike.
      • Support diversification measures of commercial fisheries to protect fishers from the dependency on too few stocks or on a single uncertain activity.

      Through our work, we have come to understand the absolute necessity of a constant dialogue between as many different stakeholders as possible, including local market drivers such as restaurants, or institutional markets such as hospitals, so that new creative value chains are built into the process from the start.

      Stakeholders, even when they share a common interest, have different perspectives and use a different language to voice their knowledge and concerns. Slow Food hosted a workshop on the small-scale guidelines at the 2012 edition of our international event, Terra Madre, during which one strong point made by the participants was the necessity to change the language of the guidelines, currently suited for official administrations but not for the small-scale fishers it proposes to engage and protect. This might also foster a very much needed and lacking trust in international instruments.

      Another point that our network’s fishers have highlighted, is that small-scale fishers do not want to be subsidized to be kept alive artificially; they want policies that restore and secure fair conditions for them to develop. Their vulnerable position was largely brought upon them by incentives and pressures that come with industrialization: to get more fish, to specialize in fewer species and to buy larger boats. The distinction between benevolent charity and fair conditions is important to them and needs to be reflected in the guidelines themselves, and during the implementation process in order to be successful in the long term.

      The Slow Fish network also fully supports the points made by the CSO conformed by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), the World Forum of Fisher Harvester and Fishworkers (WFF) and the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP).

      Slow Fish also strongly believes that no instrument will ever succeed if it does not promote total transparency at all levels from the start, including the funding of all actors involved, transparent feed back processes, and banning all closed door negotiations. Implementation of the guidelines must also take into account that intimidation and corruption practices are rampant on most continents when it comes to fisheries, a situation where transparency might help but may not be enough.

      Ultimately, we believe that virtuous processes can be promoted by focusing on values, more than on the design of technical measures.