Joeri Scholtens

Country: The Netherlands

Joeri Scholtens is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam and affiliated with the Center for Maritime Research. His research interests converge around conflicts over access to natural resources, resource governance and food security, with a particular focus on small-scale fisheries and maritime spaces. He recently defended his dissertation Fishing in the Margins focusing on the reproduction of marginality of small-scale fisheries in the context of a transboundary fisheries dispute between India and Sri Lanka. Joeri  is the coordinator of the TBTI Transboundary Interaction cluster, which takes a comprehensive and critical look at how small-scale fishers are implicated in dynamics of fishing across and disputes over international maritime boundaries and transboundary fishing spaces.

1. What are you currently working on within the context of SSF?

JS: I am currently starting up a new research project aimed at understanding and improving the contributions of (small- and large-scale fisheries) to food security in Ghana and South India. Acknowledging that in these regions it is especially the low-priced small pelagics that matter in terms of food security for the poor, we face an interesting paradox: while small-scale fishers provide for sizable livelihood opportunities and land nutritious fish for local consumption, imports from industrial distant water fleets provide a voluminous and accessible source of fish to both local and inland markets too. In this research we are going to start by looking at fish consumers and trace the fish back to production (rather than the other way round), and try to understand the multiple mechanisms at play that prevent fish to become accessible to those who need it most.

Yet my interests are broader and in continuation of my PhD work I remain particularly interested in transboundary dimensions of small-scale fisheries, as I believe that fisheries can often not be fully understood in their local context alone. For example, I’m currently looking at the implications of the EUs aggressive policy on IUU fishing in third countries for small-scale fishers. These transboundary challenges are also the core concern of the transboundary interactions TBTI research cluster that I’m engaged in.

2. If you could single out one or two most significant factors for securing sustainability of SSF, what would these factors be?

JS: For me the big question of “why small-scale fishers are getting consistently marginalized” is still not fully solved. What is clear to me is that resource access for small-scale fishers is a relational phenomenon,  conditioned by a range of relations at the local and global in scale. This is for example the case when foreign fishing fleets with superior technology and state support compete for access with resident small-scale fishers. Securing small-scale fisheries is therefore as much about adequate internal fisheries governance as it is about the ability to maintain a level of sovereignty over local fishing grounds for which powerful partnerships and networks are required.  To achieve such outcomes, small-scale fishers need to be extremely well organized and find continuously shifting avenues to politicize their plight.

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