Volume 65

How Big is Small? Understanding Small-Scale Fisheries for What They Are

Chuenpagdee, R.
Download PDF Open PDF in Browser

Other Information

Date: November, 2012

Pages: 1 -6

Event: Proceedings of the Sixty-Fifth Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Santa Marta

Country: Colombia


Fisheries span a range of operation, from small to large. But unless it is explicit which sector is referred to, there is a tendency to talk about them as if they share similar characteristics, represented mostly by the large-scale, commercial fisheries. The diversity, complexity and dynamics of the fisheries, and of the fishing communities, are often not well captured in development policy and in the general fisheries discourse. Why people fish and what fishing means to people cannot be easily understood and thus are not incorporated in the decision-making process. Talking about small-scale fisheries alone, and not in the context of other activities taking place in the same ecosystem, including large-scale fishing industry, is also counter-productive because, for the most part, small-scale fisheries co-exist with other activities. Under-standing how they interact with each other, as well as with other non-fishing activities, is therefore equally important. Despite the recognition that fisheries include large- and small-scale and that they vary from place to place, insufficient attention has been given to emphasize the scale diversity, let alone the difference in other dimensions that characterize each sector. Knowledge and information about fisheries is skewed towards large-scale, with official national statistics containing production records obtained at major commercial landing sites. Along with this is an imbalanced research focus on econom-ically important fisheries, and uneven financial support given mainly to promote fisheries industrialization (Chuenpagdee and Bundy 2006, Bavinck 2011). On the contrary, no systematic data collection system at a country level exists for small-scale fisheries, partly because this fishing activity takes place in any water body, large or small. Small-scale fishing operation also varies by types of gears, boats (types, size, and engine), distance from shore, number of crew and fisheries-related workers and who they are (family members, relatives or others), and by the nature of operation (part-time, full-time) (Chuenpagdee et al. 2006). In other words, the small-scale ‘fish chain,’ i.e., what happens at the pre-harvest, harvest, and post-harvest stages of the fisheries (Kooiman et al. 2005), is very complex and context specific. The lack of understanding about who is involved in small-scale fisheries, how many and in what capacity, and who benefits at different parts of the chain, creates barriers for policy development and good fisheries governance. It also makes it difficult to appraise the actual and potential contribution of small-scale fisheries, resulting in the low appreciation for their roles in food security provision, poverty alleviation, and ecosystem stewardship.This paper describes a new initiative, Too Big to Ignore (TBTI), a global partnership for small-scale fisheries, which aims to address the marginalization issues concerning small-scale fisheries mentioned above. It begins with some discussion about small-scale fisheries definitions and makes reference to the work by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to help promote sustainable small-scale fisheries, which TBTI builds upon. It then presents the rationale for TBTI and its key aspects, and concludes with what it hopes to contribute to the future of small-scale fisheries.

PDF Preview