Today, 21 November, fishing communities around the globe are marking World Fisheries Day.
Despite the growth of aquaculture, small-scale capture fisheries will continue to supply most of the fish consumed in much of the developing world in the coming decades. The majority of these fisheries are small-scale, operating in rivers, lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and estuaries in coastal seas, and provide livelihoods for millions of people.
Yet small-scale fisheries are frequently overlooked in discussions around the sustainable and equitable use of oceans, seas and inland water bodies.
World Fisheries Day serves as an important reminder that we need to change the way we manage global fisheries in order to maintain stocks and healthy aquatic ecosystems.
To help achieve this, WorldFish—through the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems—has committed over USD 57 million to small-scale fisheries research over six years. This considerable investment is part of our larger and integrated research portfolio on fisheries, sustainable aquaculture and value chains and nutrition, designed to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The research activities we have undertaken so far as part of our commitment, and the scientific evidence we have generated as a result, are helping us to build a multifaceted picture of the socioeconomic and business case for supporting small-scale fisheries and, in doing so, raising their profile and visibility in the wider discourse of the sustainable development agenda.
In Solomon Islands, we have successfully trialed the ‘lite-touch’ approach to community-based resource management (CBRM), a potentially more efficient and cost-effective way of establishing and spreading CBRM in remote coastal communities.
In the Meghna River estuarine system in Bangladesh, we are working with the Department of Fisheries to increase the effectiveness of a seasonal fishing ban, introduced by the government to restore depleted stocks of hilsa, the national fish.
In October, we supported a large team of researchers and partners to attend the 3rd World Small-Scale Fisheries Congress. Among the speakers was John Kurien, a WorldFish Honorary Fellow, who traced the long voyage of ‘ struggle, empathy and support ’ towards the creation of the 2014 FAO Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines (SSF Guidelines).
The FAO, with whom we signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year, is one of our key partners in a number of research and policy arenas relating to fisheries and aquaculture. We have been working together to implement and scale out the SSF Guidelines, the first internationally agreed instrument dedicated to small-scale fisheries.
Also in October, our gender work received broad attention at the 7th Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries conference. WorldFish was a proud Gold sponsor of the event, at which staff and partners presented multiple research papers and hosted two special sessions. One of these sessions was on our gender-transformative approach, which, among others, is helping men and women to adapt to climate change in Malawi’s fragile Lake Chilwa Basin.
As I underlined during my recent presentation at Our Ocean conference in Bali, strategic investments in fisheries research, embedded in partnerships and networks and building on the strengths of fishing communities, are crucial for improving human wellbeing and the social-ecological resilience of fishery systems.
Put another way, if we don’t give small-scale fisheries the attention they deserve, we are not only undermining progress towards the SDGs—in particular the specific target 14.b, which seeks to provide access of small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets—we are also missing opportunities to advance policies and investments that lead to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development of small-scale fisheries for the millions of people who depend on them.