Kate Barclay

Country: Australia

Kate Barclay is Professor of Global Studies at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). She started researching fisheries in the late 1990s in her doctoral project in development studies, looking at how industrial tuna fishing and processing affected social and economic development in Solomon Islands. Since then she has continued to work on tuna fisheries, including a comparative study of governance of southern bluefin tuna fisheries in Australia and Japan, and the development aspects of tuna industries in small island developing states in the Pacific, while also branching out into studies of the social small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. She has taught in undergraduate programs in international and global studies at UTS since 1997, and supervised PhD students in the fields of international relations in the Asia Pacific, aquaculture and development, and various social aspects of fisheries. She does a lot of commissioned applied research, for organizations including Greenpeace, the European Parliament, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and government fisheries agencies in Australia. One of her main service activities has been on an advisory committee for integrated coastal zone management for the Marine Estate Management Authority in New South Wales, Australia.

Kate uses qualitative social science methods to explore the human dimensions of fisheries, aquaculture and marine conservation. In recent years she has been using a wellbeing approach to evaluate the social and economic contributions seafood industries make to their communities in projects in Australia, Indonesia and Solomon Islands. She has undertaken governance analyses of tuna and beche de mer fisheries and been a key contributor to the Pacific Handbook for Gender Equity and Social Inclusion for Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Q: What are you currently working on within the context of small-scale fisheries?

I'm currently working on two things related to small-scale fisheries. One is writing up material from a project we did over the last couple of years looking at wellbeing from tuna fisheries in Indonesia and Solomon Islands, where we looked at both industrial and small-scale fisheries together, because they are often intertwined. For example, the existence of industrial export fisheries can provide market access for small-scale fishers to also sell to export markets. Or, more often, small-scale fishers use the Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) deployed by industrial fishing companies. Also, the domestic market chains for both are entwined. The other is ongoing projects in New South Wales and Victoria in Australia. In both of these states almost all fishing is small-scale, often single operators, and rarely more than crews of five. Both have been struggling with high costs of production compared to imported seafood and neoliberal government frameworks which favour more industrial models of operating. While the majority of Australian and tourist consumers prefer locally caught seafood, the fishers have had reduced access to fishing grounds from both the recreational fishing lobby, and the establishment of no-take zones in marine protected areas. The recreational fishing lobby continues to push governments to exclude professional fishers from favoured fishing grounds. The COVID-19 situation has brought most of these fisheries to a halt, because they supplied restaurant supply chains or markets in China and Japan. From reading reports it seems things also extremely difficult in Indonesia, and quite difficult in Solomon Islands also, although since Solomon Islands hasn't had COVID-19 and tuna fishing industries have not slowed down, things seem to be better there.

Q: If you could single out one or two most significant factors for securing sustainability of small-scale fisheries, what would these factors be?

For places like Indonesia and Solomon Islands all of the principles in the Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries (FAO) are important. For places like south eastern Australia the most important thing is for voters, consumers, recreational fishers and governments to recognize that if we want locally-produced seafood available in shops and restaurants then we have to enable professional fishing industries to thrive. Fishing industries are important parts of regional economies in their own right as well as supporting the tourism industry by supplying fresh local seafood. It is possible to have healthy coastal environments, good recreational fishing, vibrant coastal towns, sustainable professional fishing and delicious locally-produced seafood.

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