North America


North American Small-­Scale Fisheries


1) TBTI Regional Synthesis Report-Executive Summary 

SSF landings (tonnes) by sub-region. North East to North West: Canada Atlantic Coast, US East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, US West Coast, Canada Pacific Coast, Alaska Subarctic and Alaska Arctic.

Small-scale fisheries in North America makeup a small percent of global small-scale fisheries but have great social and economic benefits to the areas in which they are  located, as well as contributing to regional identities. The waters off of North America are highly productive, particularly in the Northwest Atlantic and Northeast Pacific. Small-scale fisheries of the region have a historical element, by supporting indigenous fisheries for hundreds of
years as well as being a motivating factor for European settlement.

North American small-scale fisheries are not easily defined, with vessels and methods ranging greatly. Small-scale in North America can compose commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishing, although there is great heterogeneity in the fishers that compose these groups. Although composing only two countries, the fisheries are regionally distinct and add to the cultural identify of coastal regions.

Neoliberalism and privatization have been a major focus of small-scale fisheries research in the region. Small-scale fisheries have responded by both working within these regimes to remain  viable and in other circumstances resisting to stay afloat.

Small-scale fisheries of North America face both similar and different social-ecological challenges affecting other fisheries globally. Similarly to other parts of the world, climate change is affecting ecological systems, contributing to changes in stock abundance and most notably fish stock distribution. Compared with parts of the developing world, there is large investment in fisheries management and science in this region, contributing to generally healthy fish stocks. Social problems that are specific to North America are aging fishers and concern of loss of fishing culture due to lack of young people seeking employment in the sector.

Small-scale fisheries of North America have engaged in innovative practices to remain viable in the modern era. As the fisheries of North America are generally more large scale, small scale fisheries have needed to adapt to compete and at the very least survive. These adaptations have come in the form of social enterprises that seek to bolster small-scale fisheries and ensure that the benefits are felt locally.

To read the full TBTI Regional Synthesis Report, CLICK HERE. 

Interested in contributing to the synthesis report on the small-scale fisheries of North America?

TBTI regional reports present a global picture of the small-scale fisheries characteristics, challenges, threats and opportunities. The report was developed by TBTI with inputs from academics and experts in North America. With these reports, TBTI aims to put small-scale fisheries on the map and in the right perspective, such that small-scale fisheries sustainability can be improved through policies that maximize their contribution to the regional and national social and economic development. The regional synthesis reports provide an informed baseline for actions through policy changes that can transform the way small-scale fisheries are recognized, managed and governed.

To contribute, download the report and send your comment to by January 15, 2019. All comments will be taken into consideration during the revision of the draft and consolidation of the final report.

2) North America – Summary from the regional roundtable

Presented by: Jack Daly
Note taker for the session: Evan Andrews
Presentation created by: Evan Andrews, Alida Bundy, Jack Daly with input from all present during roundtable

The North America discussion focused heavily on the regional synthesis report since the group was small and many participants have reviewed it prior to the discussion. Although focused on the report, many of the themes and questions were addressed about small-scale fisheries in North America more broadly.

 What are the major knowledge gaps in small-scale fisheries?
  • What ways can we better assess the value, both economic and social of small-scale fisheries of North America?
  • What does the Blue economy mean for small-scale fisheries of North America?
  • What are some technical pathways to achieve sustainability, access to markets, and improving catch data?
  • Where do the SSF Guidelines fit in for North America small-scale fisheries?

What are the major challenges facing small scale-fisheries?

  • By-catch of large-scale fisheries
  • There is not always confidence in fisheries observers
  • Ocean capture concerns: conflicts with aquaculture and mariculture
  • Quota and market access
  • Market access
  • Regulatory ratchets
  • Recruitment/intergenerational continuity
  • Undervaluing of social and economic contributions of fisheries
  • Single-species dependence

What kind of change in science, community, markets and policy is required to improve viability of small-scale fishing communities, reduce their vulnerability and to promote SSF sustainability?

  • Using advances in technology to collect information on the impact of small-scale fisheries, especially when compared to the large-scale sector.

What actions are required from civil society organizations, research community and policy people in order to implement the SSF Guidelines?

  • Since the SSF Guidelines have a major focus on food security and poverty eradication researchers and policy makers need to showcase which parts of the SSF Guidelines are the most applicable to North America small-scale fisheries and in what ways they can be leveraged to achieve the policy goals, whose issues revolve around recruitment, market access concerns, and ultimately access to quota and fishing grounds.
  • Strengthen and build networks that support fisheries and engage consumers in the benefits of supporting small-scale fisheries in North America. 

 How to strengthen the policy science interface?

  • A major issue is the lack of discussion of small-scale fisheries in the North American context as it is removed from the global discourse. Small-scale fisheries do exist in North America and advocacy at all levels needs to be taken as a first step.
  • As the small-scale fisheries sector supports more harvesters and is nested in communities, more recognition is required through science and policy of the immense social and ultimately ecological benefits of small-scale fisheries when compared to the large scale sector.