Debriefs from the congress

In order to facilitate interaction, information sharing, cross-fertilization of ideas and networking opportunities for congress participants, the congress followed a dynamic format with activities organized around themes of science, community and policy. The main message from each of the three themes is presented below.

Debrief from Science Day - Monday, October 22 2018

Prepared by Evan Andrews, Jack Daly, Jennifer Beckensteiner, Diego Salgueiro Otero, Carlos Montero-Castaño, Kashiefa Parker, Andrew Song, and Alida Bundy

Main messages

  • Small-scale fisheries are important places (i.e., human rights, food security, and livelihoods)
  • Their sustainability is affected by interacting, levelled social and environmental drivers of change including climate change
  • Not all small-scale fisheries are the same or similarly affected by these drivers
  • Implementing the SSF Guidelines in these dynamic contexts represents scientific and moral imperatives
  • ›Human rights and social justice perspectives are guiding lights for our work
  • This includes bringing the research & messages to where the people are and facilitating increased voice for communities
  • We also have imperatives for more attention to inland fisheries

Data and methods

  • Data for SSF remains uneven (still ‘data poor’ for some)
  • New technologies like mobile apps, crowdsourcing, mapping with diverse knowledge types can help bring SSF data into policy processes.
  • Participation and adult learning techniques in training workshops are effective ways of communicating and exchanging knowledge with local communities.
  • ›Inclusion of TEK is as foundation for moving forward scientifically (e.g., MSC certification)


  • New methods/approaches discussed during Science Cafés and special sessions
  • Crowdsourcing portal used by ISSF, activities and exercises, games, interactive discussions and pictures are effective ways of relaying messages to communities who have few facilities and low levels of literacy.
  • Social, policy and institutional innovations need attention to advance ACCESS that is critical for livelihoods in SSF e. g., New policy instruments, ways to address multiple dimensions of justice (e.g., conflict, corruption, and livelihoods), and advance means for collective action

Brightspots about progress

  • Much work has been completed over the past 8 years (VISIBILITY for SSF)
  • SSF guidelines in place
  • Development of Global Strategic Framework in support of implementing
  • Together SSF-Guidelines and SDG can be used as the blue print for sustainable development of SSF.
  • Various ways developed for outreach to community (e.g., CSOs in Africa)
  • 2018 – FAO COFI propose new subcommittee of fisheries management
  • 2022 - International Year of Fisheries and Aquaculture
  • There is more interdisciplinary and perhaps transdisciplinary research, across the social and natural sciences

What is the major knowledge gap in small-scale fisheries?

  • Implementing the SSF Guidelines at all levels
  • Building capacity, collective action insights
  • Comparative analyses challenging due to heterogeneous nature of SSF
  • Not all fisheries are doing equally well – why?
  • Debating critical questions: development the right goal? 

What are the major challenges facing small-scale fisheries?

  • Dealing with change
  • Translating policy into action
  • Advancing social, policy and institutional innovation
  • Implementing the SSF guidelines.
  • Engaging stakeholders who did not participate in the consultations for SSF guidelines
  • Encouraging the development of international or national initiatives to collect more consistent data on SSF for integration in the policy processes

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?

  • Inland fisheries coming into focus
  • The changes affecting fisheries, which are resilient, which are not
  • When do changes occur? Shifting baselines…. does a situation have to reach crisis point before there is a response?
  • Tied to funding, global and local institutional constraints, and making people care (i.e., TBTI is a great example of clear message)

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

  • With implementation of SSF Guidelines comes monitoring = civil society has a large role
  • Strengthening SSFs capacities.
  • Organizing women to be involved in the implementation of SSF guidelines.


Debrief from Community Day - Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Prepared by John Matias Wojciechowski and Silva and a huge team of notetakers.

  Main messages

  • SSF is not about just fishing. It is about place-making where identities are carved by an intimate relationship with nature. SSF are places where:
  • Entire families are involved in the activity, where women have a key role to play and inter-generational ties are crucial for their survival. It is an intimate relationship with nature that cannot be broken.
  • Transdisciplinary teams need to foresee an active participation of the fisher community along the program/policy formulation cycle as a fundamental element of long-term SSF sustainability.
  • From agenda setting to community-based monitoring and evaluation.
  • Land use is just as important to SSF sustainability as deploying protected areas and management of fishing resources. This is particularly true for indigenous and other traditional communities which are often displaced by aggressive profit-driven development projects.
  • The negative impacts of irresponsible industrial fisheries on SSF are profound. Just one incident can wipe out an entire sector for years. The good news is that these dramatic scenarios can be reverse with an incredible effort from all stakeholders towards transdisciplinarity.  

Challenges - past and current

  • The human rights approach, will have to CHALLENGE the dominant development model and the narrow-minded conservation discourse.
  • "We have governments that are professional treaty signees. (…) At the same time communities still do not have access to electricity”.
  • Criminal activity carried out by organized crime, illegal fishing and criminal industrial practices are ever more present in the fishing communities.
  • This leads to displacement, devastation and depression.
  • Inequalities suffered by women and youth are persistent. And they are aggravated by a number of challenges such as replacement of labour with in-migration, high costs of entry, lack of visibility, among many others issues. 

Gaps and opportunities to move forward

  • We need to think of innovative policies, programs and projects that can retain the younger generations in the community. They need DECENT jobs in the fisheries sector and beyond.
  • New technologies, inter-generational initiatives, tourism are all part of the solution. BUT “We need to anticipate changes and not wait to react”.
  • Application of technology can have a positive impact in the community (e.g. by-catch reduction, global data networks, community–based monitoring, etc). However, with technology applications fishers are often seen only as end-users. 
  • Lack of interface of SSF as a sector in broader coastal or territorial planning processes. This leads to long lasting detrimental effects of SSF sustainability.

Policy-Science interface

  • “We still need to recognize that science is a tool and not a result in itself”. Traditional values need to be incorporated and the plural nature of contextual knowledge needs to be recognized.
  • The policy, academic, and CSO communities need to:
  • Recognize the importance of traditional knowledge and VALUES in policy drafting and formulations;
  • Translate the technical knowledge into relevant and accessible information.
  • So that fishing communities can gain ownership of the contextual knowledge to negotiate with regulators.  

Fisher to fisher recommendations

  • When organizations are strong they are much more effective at speaking with one voice and can build more convincing arguments against key risk factors.
  • Fisher organizations need to fight for a seat at the decision-making table. This will be easier achieved if the organization is representative of its various communities.
  • Transparency and participation are key to the interactive process with other stakeholders but that also means that the Fisher organizations must be accountable to the base.
  • Fisher organizations need to build capacity to negotiate with regulators as equals. This means that capacity building is a permanent task!!


Debrief from Policy Day - Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Prepared by Milena Arias Schreiber, Madeleine Gustavsson and a team of notetakers.

  Roles of Government in the SSF Guidelines implementation

  • Describe the complexities and hierarchies involved in the SSF Guidelines implementation associated with governmental and bureaucratic processes.
  • Acknowledge the importance of international collaborations.
  • Attempt to integrate national targets with local needs.
  • Recognize core social principles that go beyond fisheries or resource management alone (e.g. human rights, gender equality, dignity, cultural identity, etc.).
  • Highlight the importance of participation of local small-scale fishers representatives and CSOs at the early stages of implementation. 

Roles of Policy Influencers in the SSF Guidelines implementation

  • Adopt a multi-dimensional, transdisciplinary approach.
  • Seek broader connections across sectors.
  • Understand that we have to build and collect information and data with communities – not just about them.
  • The SSF Guidelines can be used to self-evaluate the work of NGOs.
  • Shift the discourse to ‘adopting’ rather than ‘implementing’ the Guidelines. 

Protecting livelihoods, promoting wellbeing and values

  • Nine speakers presented their work on livelihood aspects of SSFs from contexts as diverse as Brazil, Australia, Ghana, Gambia, Canada, and Papua New Guinea.
  • The session discussed factors underpinning the resilience and vulnerabilities of small-scale fisher communities enabling them to respond to rapid change and enhancing their livelihoods.
  • Brazil: individual and household-level responses to external change do not translate to community level resilience and adaptation.
  • Papua New Guinea: argued that recreational-SSF interaction were not well understood and need more attention.
  • By highlighting livelihoods and their diverse connections, the speakers stressed the importance of what lies beyond the SSF economic contribution.

Tradition and innovation in governance

  • Implementation of the SSF Guidelines: walking the talk, needs new thinking.
  • Blue economy is used widely but abstract. How does it impact SSF?
  • Knowledge gap: How does SSF fit within the blue economy? 

Multiple tools, approaches and perspectives in SSF governance

  • MPAs bring different forms of contestations: what it means; and how they are implemented.
  • Small-scale fisheries governance needs to be analyzed under different perspectives included all components of the systems, natural, socio-ecologic and government.
  • Failures in the governance process is the disconnection and no dialogue among the regional, national and local management.
  • Examples of “communities enforcement committees” were presented.
  • SSF need to be involved in the international policy reform not just national levels – specific for those SSF targeting migratory fish (e.g. tuna). 

Multiple demands, multiple governance challenges

  • Social equity can be an outcome of co-management, and also a tool to reach the outcomes which we desire. Community-based marine reserves can have benefits but we should understand them well to maximize their outcomes.
  • Governance rules from government to community have to be well applied and at regional scale. 
  • We cannot let the communities isolated dealing with the problems alone. There is a need for more clear, connected and regionalized regulations.
  • Need to think more about the role of markets. Technical solutions about markets, must to address the relations that sustain poverty (e.g. the question of land ownership and reform).
  • Accommodation of local and scientific knowledge.