Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Member profile

Dr. Sérgio Mattos

Organization: Tropical Marine Ichthyology Group - IMAT
Country: Brazil
Field(s) of expertise:
I am working on:

Issues concerning the implementation of fisheries public policies, through the following tools: Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM), Fisheries Bioeconomics, and Fisheries Monitoring and Control.

This member contributed to:

    • The construction and implementation of fishing policies requires dialogue and a close relationship with representative fishers associations, to induce intervention processes that should allow to meet the challenges of a bottom-up policies implementation that take notice of empirical and traditional knowledge. In this context, Academia plays important roles where small-scale fishers find support, although still few researchers developing studies and researches on social and economic issues related to small-scale fisheries.

      Such commitment allowed knowing more the way which fishers struggled to have rights to resource management, once engagement was ultimately the extent to which management rights coincide with fishers’ power and involvement in decision-making, although only some directly engage. Many fishing arrangements aims at providing fishers with proper rights to resource management, the way in which the majority of fishers do engage in management, because specific mechanisms were develop to facilitating their participation, as formally created or long-established informal traditions tacitly recognized by the Government, although fishers themselves do not participate personally, and they do so through fisher representatives or formal fishing organizations.

      Such arrangements, in some way or another, worked as standing committees supporting small-scale fishing villages and communities to deal with recent disasters and outbreaks, with active participation of small-scale fisheries representatives, and last March they published an open letter calling for action, signed by more than 400 institutions, movements and researchers. The result was the establishment of an observatory which functions as a political platform for claims and training, an important active network to support SSF, known as Grupo Observatório dos Impactos do Coronavirus nas Comunidades Pesqueiras (Observatory Group of Coronavirus Impact on Fishing Communities) created during the COVID-19 Pandemic by the Federal University of Bahia and the Pastoral Council of Fishers, aiming at bringing leaders together to centralize data and disseminate information and serve as an emotional assistance to these communities, being composed by civil societies organizations representatives and research institutions. The Observatory collects and disseminates information about Covid-19 on SSF in a blog (, using Google Forms and Apps, and the reports are grouped together and released at the end of the day, in the Daily Bulletin. And they also serve as a basis for the wider epidemiological bulletin of fishing communities, released at a weekly-basis.

    • The Northeast region of Brazil has the highest number of coastal and estuarine fishers, both men and women. During the last 10 years, unfortunately with minors improvement, efforts had been directed to build institutional and community capacity for improving the livelihoods and well-being of women and families that depend on clam and oyster extraction. Fisherwomen bravely fish for clam and shellfish extraction in Pernambuco State’s bravery estuaries, located in the Northeast Region of Brazil. Wooden rowboats are used mainly for transportation to and from clam fishery areas. Children usually help their mothers by starting to fish from childhood. Bravely fishing seems to be a synonymous, at least an analogy, for many small-scale fishers worldwide. Whether, or not, the only option for a living, and livelihood, a decision to fish requires a heart choice, in a daily struggle for life.

      Improved knowledge about these fisheries is strategically important for institutions to recognize and support the socioeconomic, employment, and ecological contributions of SSF, particularly in isolated fishing communities, through developing three interdependent fronts of action: 1) participatory fisheries management; 2) socio-educational initiatives focusing on gender mainstreaming and promoting empowerment of women in fisheries occupations; and 3) value chain upgrading and democratization focusing on the decent work agenda; and proposing sustainable use of estuarine and coastal fisheries resources; improvement at institutional levels in monitoring and control mechanisms of the value chain; improved educational status and professional training of fishers and fishworkers; increased capacity building for the development of technologies and innovations in the full spectrum of the SSF value chain; and implementation of decent work policies in the north-eastern Brazil small-scale fishing, especially among women engaged in estuarine clam and shellfish fisheries.

      Recognition of the unequal power relationships between value chain stakeholders and that vulnerable and marginalized groups may require special support to enhance their participation in decision making processes are also key elements of an approach to clam and shellfish fishery development, in line with FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for SSF in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication. Legitimate, democratic and representative structures, access to market opportunities and increased transparency and information-sharing in the SSF value chain are pivotal expected outcomes of this implementation strategy. The strategy also promotes socio-economic-cultural assessment of small-scale fishworkers; fostering dialogue and communication at all institutional levels; and enhancing qualification and managerial skills of technicians closely related with small-scale fishing communities.

      As a former Fishery Agent from the Brazilian Government, I directly engaged for the implementation of an established fishery policy in Brazil aimed at Professional Qualification and Social Valorization since it is through the education and qualification of artisanal fishing peoples -  men, women, children, and workers in general - that we can move towards the elimination of historical inequalities related to the reality of these fishing people and the entire context that surrounds it. One step further was precisely to carry out systematic socio-educational activities on the fishing world for fishers’ sons and daughters, recognizing the importance of strengthening historical culture and, also, minimizing the participation of these children in daily fishing.

      Sergio Mattos

      Fishery Engineer
      Tropical Ichthyology Marine Group - IMAT

    • In June 2016, two year after FAO adopted the SSF Guidelines, a “National Seminar on Capacity-building for the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Small-scale Fisheries” was hold in Brazil, aiming at learning about values, norms, and principles to enable its implementation in Brazil, through capacity formation and experience exchange to disseminate local knowledge, through a broad and participative process of dialogue.

      Deliberations and outcomes from previous events held in Brazil with a direct or indirect linkage to the SSF Guidelines were starting points, although acknowledged the impossibility of comprehending and cover an exhaustive assessment of the topics, despite multiple and diverse contributions. Defining progress towards securing sustainable small-scale fisheries (Topic 1) required an identification of legal basis and public policies that, in principle, would have positive or negative impact in actions of implementing the SSF Guidelines, searching for political coherence in the national scenario, and becoming an instrument enabler of operating reforms in the existing complex legal and institutional framework. In this regard, the Guidelines were well-conceived considering understanding necessaries actions for securing sustainable small-scale fisheries, when conducting in Part 2 five thematic areas and issues taking social, economic and environmental aspects into consideration basis for sustainable development.

      It is clear that connections among chapters, paragraphs, and topics strengthen the Guidelines’ objectives and goals, set in Part 1. Nevertheless, current political context of loss of social and economic rights and attacks in the field of environmental conservation, which threatens small-scale fisheries, their fishing territories, and the natural ecosystems, highlight that securing sustainability requires following relationships with other instruments. Mainly, promoting actions to support the sector’s transition to sustainable development from an economic and environmental perspective, strengthening food and nutrition security, for the sustainable use of natural resources, climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, at local level, although in light of regional (Latin America), national (Brazil), and sub-national (Brazilian Macro Regions) levels. Worth arguing for the need to confront legal instruments and initiatives linked to fisheries at national and international levels and the existing fishery management system, aiming at supporting alignment; incorporating small-scale fishing communities’ expectations and outlook; and contributing to establishing an efficient and effective institutional and legal framework.

      Helping measuring progress (Topic 2) on the implementation of the SSF Guidelines, it is paramount establishing a "positive agenda" for civil society organizations, creating an autonomous movement coherent with basic human rights approaches, once neglected political spaces must be properly and adequately underwired. The process will consider following participatory methods of empowerment of fishers, strengthening exchanges of knowledge and experiences, to enable and facilitate communication between the government and the civil society organization. This is in line, and mandatory, with Sustainable Development Goal, SDG Indicator 14.b.1, that support actions to follow the “progress by countries in adopting and implementing a legal/regulatory/policy/institutional framework, which recognizes and protects access to small-scale fisheries' rights”. Worth mentioning that this “is a composite indicator calculated on the basis of the efforts being made by countries to implement selected key provisions of the SSF Guidelines”.

      Hence, mechanisms and instruments for SSF monitoring & control, through actions in participatory fisheries management, fish production value chain, decent work, and socio-educational initiatives, with a focus on issues of gender, are meaningful and feasible indicators (Topics 2) “nice to have”. Which can promote knowledge on the current reality of the fishing sector and taking measures to be adopted for its sustainability, a following-up systemic assessment as results from cooperation projects once conducted on the Northeast Coast of Brazil small-scale fisheries.

      From 2008 to 2011 the Brazilian Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Canadian charity World Fisheries Trust implemented a project known as Gente da Maré (GDM), or ‘People of the Tides’. GDM worked strategically to build institutional and community capacity and linkages between government, university researchers, and local fishing associations involved in projects to improve the livelihoods and well-being of ‘marisqueiras,’ women and families that depend on clam and oyster extraction, mainly the Venerid clam Anomalocardia brasiliana, in the Northeast Region of Brazil where the country’s highest number of coastal and estuarine small-scale fishers are concentrated. Consistent with many of the principles and guidelines in FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), GDM promoted an integrated approach to equitable development of sustainable fisheries that included: co-management including participatory research and stronger research-policy interface; empowerment of women in fisheries occupations and improved opportunities for women; and value chain upgrading and democratization focusing on the decent work agenda, ..., towards the implementation of the SSF Guidelines in Brazil. (Mattos S M G, Wojciechowski M J, Macnaughton A E, da Silva G H G, Maia A M L R, Carolsfeld J (2017) Implementing the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines: Lessons from Brazilian Clam Fisheries. In: Jentoft S, Chuenpagdee R, Barragán-Paladines M.J, Franz N (eds) The Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines: Global Implementation, vol 14. Springer, Heidelberg, p 473-494.)

      As key elements and experiences to participatory monitoring (Topic 3) it is paramount greater involvement of people and entities, as fishing territories and rights can be followed by the evaluation and modernization of small-scale fisheries. Dialogue with other representations, strategies of improvements in public policies, seeking an evaluation and transformation to strengthen self-esteem, through self-monitoring and control, working on the application of methodologies and technologies for sustainable fisheries are strategies worth constructing for full implementation of the SSF Guidelines and the Sustainable Development Goals.

      In my point of view, there are inconsistent policies for small-scale fisheries monitoring and control and impacts on fishing resources and fishers’ livelihoods, showing the decline faced by Brazil to apply fishing management measures. In a daily basis, fishers struggle on defending fishing territories from a cultural perspective, developing community tools for the delimitation of their territories, through self-identification and improvement of fishing communities’ self-management, to facilitate access of producers to different assets (such as land, water, energy, and infrastructure) and rural financial services (loans, savings, insurances), as well as non-financial services (technical assistance, innovation, and knowledge).

      Strengthen the implementation of techniques, methods a,nd tools that can be used to support fishing communities to be self-reliant in conflict resolution is a challenge worth exploring, once restrictions on access to fishing territories, and intolerance and violence against fisherfolks, are generating disturbances and high levels of anxiety and stress, leading to still unidentified and nameless diseases that affect fisherfolks. Such are historical dilemmas and perspectives from a political point of view, especially regarding the invisibility of small-scale fishers as producers of food and income, that must be stressed to improving the creation and implementation of multisectoral public policies and programs for food security and nutrition, strengthening their institutions, adjusting existing legal frameworks, and supporting robustness of information systems and resource allocation.