Alicia is reading for a PhD in Biodiversity Management and Human Ecology at the School of Anthropology and Conservation, at the University of Kent. Her research interests converge on resource governance, socio-economic and socio-ecological resilience, and sustainable livelihoods in the context of small-scale and artisanal fisheries. Focusing on the small-scale fisheries sector in Malta, she seeks to highlight how the ratification of the EU Common Fisheries Policy has interplayed with the sustainability of the heterogeneous fishing communities that inhabit the island. The research, which is based on a year of contact, interaction and participant observation with fishers, explores and describes how fishers experience and respond to conservation and neo-liberal policy shifts. Based on these observations, Alicia aims to provide feasible context-specific recommendations for the continuation of small-scale fishing communities.
What are you currently working on within the context of SSF?
AS: Since small-scale fisheries are complex systems, I have adopted an interdisciplinary approach to investigate the incremental implications deriving from the policy changes dawning onto the endogenous Maltese fishing patterns since EU accession in 2004. I have recently published an article that describes how the capitalistic nature of the Bluefin tuna fishery policy has facilitated the plight of the artisanal fishing sector due to privatisation schemes that enabled the concentration of quotas into fewer hands. Concurrently, I am investigating the role of the Maltese open-access fisheries policy on the livelihood of fishers, as well as investigating the sustainability implications of marine protected areas on the inshore fishing communities. Through these case studies, I shall provide a wide-ranging and analytical outlook of how small-scale fishers are implicated in the dynamics of fisheries management and governance.
If you could single out one or two most significant factors for securing sustainability of SSF, what would these factors be?
AS: There is no straightforward answer since securing sustainability is complex and context-specific, so the need for interdisciplinary research to unpack the complexity of fisheries dynamics is critical to ensure that the right tools are implemented to assist small-scale fishers. We need to move away from one-size-fits-all policies and ensure that policies match the needs of fishing communities through feasible governance systems. A lot of empirical research supports the need for context-specific governance systems, but context-specific governance systems need to be based on a lot of empirical research, so the focus should be on how we can achieve such effective governance to suit the specific needs of fishing communities.
On a similar note, I think that incentivising the fishermen to become more involved in securing their livelihoods through transparent decision-making should be realistically implemented. We, as social scientists, should be the bridge that sustains the ability of fishers to promote fishing sustainability with for example ensuring that they have sufficient capacity to participate in decision-making. This trajectory, which should be embedded in good governance principles, would ease the ongoing crisis of inequity, distributive injustice and marginalization in a way that safeguards the continuation of the small-scale fishing communities.