How research can affect change among fishers and communities
Global, regional and national policies recognize that, in many contexts, small-scale fisheries are managed most effectively though co-management—where fishers and fishing communities themselves are empowered as managers alongside NGO or government partners.
WorldFish therefore engages fishers and their communities as co-researchers when identifying, testing and refining solutions to local fishery challenges in countries. Importantly, this is coupled with direct engagement with government to ensure that enabling conditions (such as technical support, policies or legislative arrangements) are established.
Despite having some of the most expansive freshwater fisheries in the world, Cambodia’s inland fisheries production is increasingly under threat from issues such as large infrastructure development (e.g. dam construction), population growth, habitat degradation, and destructive fishing practices.
Since 2011, WorldFish has worked locally with 14 villages to empower them to co-manage fisheries in the Stung Treng Ramsar Site—a 37 km stretch of the Upper Mekong River designated as a ‘wetland of international importance’.
This approach—which included community patrolling, the creation of five conversation zones and a new knowledge-sharing network—has led to reports of increasing fish stocks in the area, more equitable access to fishing for local stakeholders, and a greater sense of shared responsibility between all stakeholders.
Communities in Solomon Islands have a long history of cultural practices relating to natural resource use, which can be modified to manage contemporary fisheries. The national government and many NGOs have promoted community-based fisheries management as one key strategy to help narrow the country’s fish-for-food security supply gap.
Since 2005, WorldFish has worked directly with at least 30 different villages to facilitate discussions on shared fishery goals, to exchange contemporary and local knowledge on solutions, and to collectively design fisheries management measures.
This approach has been successful in villages with strong local leadership and community-wide involvement. WorldFish research shows that community-based fisheries management can lead to short-term increases in abundance, and the efficiency with which fish and shellfish are harvested—ensuring plenty of seafood is available at times of high need.
In addition, WorldFish has worked with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to design a fishing strategy and related legislation that formalizes the role of communities in the management of coastal fisheries.
The Barotse Floodplain in Zambia provides the region’s 250,000 inhabitants with a critical source of income and food, particularly fish. But fishers, processors and traders have limited means to preserve fish, meaning around one-third of fish is often lost during processing and trading, jobs that are mostly done by women.
Between 27% and 39% of the global fish catch is being wasted each year, but the impact of these losses is most felt by the poor in developing countries. Froukje Kruijssen, a senior advisor at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, explains why the poor are so vulnerable to postharvest losses and what WorldFish is doing about it.
As part of the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAf) project (late 2014 to early 2017), WorldFish worked with 256 fishers, processors and traders from six fishing camps in the Barotse Floodplain to trial fish processing technologies such as salting, ice and solar drying tents.
Research finds that the improved technologies can reduce losses and decrease the time burdens of women. This research is critical to increasing the likelihood that the benefits of small-scale fisheries are optimized for both women and men.