Transboundary Interactions

Small-scale fisheries and their governance are intrinsically connected to natural, social and political processes that occur outside the domain of a ‘fisheries system’. This connection is arguably nowhere better seen than in the case of transboundary fishing, where local, regional, national and international interests and identity are deeply interconnected and play a crucial role in influencing the wellbeing of small-scale fishers and their fishing strategies. To further understand challenges facing small-scale fisheries (SSF), we must therefore explore not only the internal functioning of a fisheries governance system, but also explore cross-sector and cross-scale linkages, connecting small-scale fisheries to a larger political economy.


Disruption of the livelihoods of small-scale fishers and environmental degradation are often observed in cases of disputed sea boundaries as well as in cases of internationalization of fishing fleets. While many scholars have studied the subject of transboundary fisheries (e.g. with aspects involving stock dynamics, political economy, and UNCLOS), there has been little research that explicitly explores implications for small-scale fishers.


This cluster therefore 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. 


 For more information on participation in this cluster please scroll down to “How to contribute” section. 


First, we aim to document and synthesize a research agenda on small-scale fisheries implicated in transboundary settings based on a broad-based search of on-the-ground issues and needs. For this, we are organizing a special session called “Transboundary challenges for small-scale fisheries: Exploring a research agenda” at the People and the Sea conference organized by Center for Maritime Research (MARE) of the University of Amsterdam in June, 2015. This panel aims to explore a research agenda for understanding how maritime transboundary issues intersect with the concerns of small-scale fisheries. Five short presentations drawn from previous experiences on the topic will be presented. The session will then proceed with small-group discussions that actively engage the audience in shaping the research agenda. Two main questions to guide the discussions will be: (1) What are the major gaps in knowledge regarding the impact of transboundary issues on SSF?; (2) What are crucial questions for a meaningful research agenda on transboundary challenges for SSF?

The research agenda identified in this panel leads to a more comprehensive knowledge stocktaking effort that involves a brief online survey among TBTI network members around the world. Based on the gathered insights and experiences, we are interested in producing a concrete and policy-relevant synthesis of various perspectives on transboundary challenges for SSF based on a wide range of cases and experiences.

Secondly, building upon the research gaps and insights identified in the preceding steps, the cluster aims to conduct an in-depth comparative study to further examine the key impacts of transboundary issues on SSF and the related responses and agency of small-scale fishers. We expect that a focused comparative study would help improve our understanding of how maritime transboundary issues intersect with the concerns of small-scale fisheries by generating “thick” descriptions as well as more generalizable insights. The exact format of this segment of the cluster activity (e.g. case study or comparative analysis) as well as the specific research questions will become more clearly defined after the MARE 2015 conference.

Research questions

Potential research themes and specific questions may include:

Implications of transboundary fishing for SSF

1. How and to what extent are coastal small-scale fisheries affected by the encroachments of foreign fishing fleets?

2. What strategies are employed by small-scale fishers to respond to the impacts of foreign fishing fleets?

3. What are the potential environmental impacts of fishing in transboundary areas?

Maritime disputes, geopolitics and SSF

1.How are SSF implicated by marine boundary disputes and how do they respond?

2. How does the process of state territorialization affect small-scale fishers’ operations?

3. How, and to what effect, are SSF capable in engaging in the (geo)politics of transboundary fishing practices?

 Inclusive governance of transboundary fishing

1. What are the role and impacts of International law (e.g. UNCLOS), international fishery cooperation agreements and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations on the resources, economies and wellbeing of SSF?

2. What are the governability challenges of transboundary fishing practices?


1. Interactive panel on transboundary fishing at the MARE conference 2015

2. Paper and policy brief on transboundary research agenda and broad-based collection of experiences based on the panel discussion and survey input from TBTI network members

3. Paper describing an in-depth (case-based or comparative) study on transboundary fishing issues (to be further determined based on the research agenda)

4. Building of a network of scholars and civil society members engaged in small-scale fisher responses to international fishing fleets and concerned with the safety and the wellbeing of small-scale fishers in light of larger-scale maritime geopolitical struggles.


Timeline / Work plan

June 2015: Interactive panel on “Transboundary Challenges for Small-Scale Fisheries: Exploring a research agenda”

January 2016: Manuscript synthesizing small-scale fisheries research agenda on transboundary challenges ready for submission

August 2016: Manuscript detailing in-depth (case-based or comparative) study on transboundary fishing politics ready for submission

July 2017: IUU panel discussion at the MARE Conference in 2017

How to contribute

1. Join us in the formulation of a research agenda, either by participating in the special panel at the MARE conference 2015 or by providing digital inputs in a draft compilation to be circulated after the conference.

2. Contribute to the comprehensive stocktaking effort through a brief online survey among TBTI network members around the world, by sharing your knowledge of and experiences with transboundary challenges for SSF.

3. Join our network of scholars and civil society members engaged in small-scale fisher responses to international fishing fleets and concerned with the wellbeing of small-scale fishers in light of larger-scale maritime geopolitical developments.

4. Participate in the IUU panel discussion at the MARE Conference in 2017. 

Cluster coordinators

Joeri Scholtens, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Johny Stephen, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Andrew Song, McGill University, Canada

Maarten Bavinck, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Cluster members
Name Affiliation Country
Abdul, Waidi Federal University of Agriculture Nigeria
Abura, Samson Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization Uganda
Acciaioli, Gregory The University of Western Australia Australia
Advani, Sahir University of British Columbia India
Alam, Md Mahbub Marine Fisheries Academy, Ministry of Fisheries & Livestock Bangladesh
Allen, Maggie University of Washington USA
Alp-Ercelan, Aly Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum Pakistan
Anatole, Danto CNRS / ApoliMer / UMR LEMAR / UMR ARENES France
Antonova, Anna University of Leeds UK
Balaraman, Subramanian Our Sea Our People India
Bannwart, Janaina Fishery coordinator of Epagri Brazil
Barriga, Danielle ECOSUR Mexico
Barter, Lachlan University Center for the Westfjords Iceland
Bassett, Hannah Univesity of Washington USA
Baumgartner, Timothy Centro de Investigacion Cientifica y de Educacion Superior de Ensenada Mexico
Bavinck, Marteen University of Amsterdam The Netherlands
Bennett, Nathan The University of British Columbia Canada
Bonsu, Prince Owusu Erasmus Mundus Course on Maritime Spatial Planning Portugal
Brewer, Jennifer University of New Hampshire USA
Cakacaka, Akuila Institute of Tropical Marine Research Germany
Campbell, Brooke University of Wollongong Australia
Coswig Kalikoski, Daniela FAO Italy
De Freitas, Debora Biosciences Institute São Paulo State University-UNESP, Coastal Campus Brazil
Dutka-Gianelli, Jynessa University of Florida Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences USA
Elegbede, Isa Brandenburg University of Technology Germany
Fofandi, Kamlesh Volunteer India
Freed, Sarah University of Maryland University College USA
Friedman, Kim FAO Italy
Gonzalez, Miguel Marinez Instituto De Estudios Interacionales, Universidad Del Mar (UMAR) Mexico
Greenhill, Lucy Scottish Association for Marine Science UK
Hall, Pam Memorial University of Newfoundland Canada
Hisham, Jafer Department of Fisheries India
Hudson, Joanna Blue Ventures UK
James, Mark University of St Andrews UK
Jatoi, Qamer Uddin University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa Pakistan
Jouanneau, Charlène Charlène Jouanneau Consultant France
Kadirgamar, Ahilan Collective for Economic Democratisation Sri Lanka
Kappo, Ayorinde NASRDA Nigeria
Kehinde, Adekeye Fisheries society of Nigeria Nigeria
Kotowicz, Dawn University of Rhode Island USA
Lam, Mimi University of British Columbia Canada
Lamb, Norlan Conch - Conserving our natural cultural history Belize
Lau, Jacqueline ARC Centre for Excellece in Coral Reef Studies Australia
Lazar, Najih University of Rhode Island USA
Loury, Erin FISHBIO Laos
Marques, Elineide UFT Brazil
Marquez Perez, Ana Isabel Providence Sea & Land Initiative Foundation Colombia
Matola, Hakimu Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute Tanzania
Mattos, Sérgio Ministry of Planning Brazil
McClenachan, Loren Colby College USA
Mensah, Isaac Cardiff University UK
Mhlanga, Wilson Department of Environment Science Bindura University of Science Education Zimbabwe
Miller, Alice International Pole and Line Foundation UK
Miller, Mairi FAO Italy
Mozumder, Mohammad PhD student Finland
Mphangwe Kosamu, Ishmael Bobby University of Malawi Malawi
Mueller, Miriam Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa Mexico
Napata, Ruby Institute of Fisheries Policy and Development Studies, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of the Philippines Visayas Philippines
Neilson, Alison Centre for Social Studies, CES, University of Coimbra Portugal
Nyikahadzoi, Kefasi University of Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Palmer, Roy Aquaculture without Frontiers Australia
Parker, Kashiefa International Ocean Institute South Africa
Pentzel, Maria University of Sevilla Spain
Potts, Tavis University of Aberdeen UK
Prescott, Jim Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) Australia
Ratzel, Meri Independent research - socioeconomics - Fish Locally Collaborative USA
Ragusa, Gianluca International Independent consultant - Fisheries and aquaculture specialist Italy
Reghu, Raghu Prakash Central Insitute Of Fisheries Technology India
Reuter, Ricarda Afrika Kontakt Denmark
Richard, Natalie Alaska Pacific University USA
Robinson, Gary Bangor University UK
Rohe, Janne Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) Germany
Romero, Ronnie National Fisheries Research and Development Institute Philippines
Said, Alicia PhD Student, University of Kent UK
Satapornvanit, Arlene Nietes USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership Thailand
Sato, Tetsu Research Institute for Humanity and Nature Japan
Schneider, Katharina Heidelberg University Germany
Seto, Katherine UC Berkeley USA
Snape, Robin University of Exeter Cyprus
Soares, Lisa University of Warwick UK
Steenbergen, Dirk Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security Australia
Trouillet, Brice University of Nantes France
Tubino, Rafael Universidade Federal Fluminense Brazil
Urteaga, Jose E-IPER / Stanford University Nicaragua
Viegas, Maria Instituto Portugues do Mar e da Atmosfera Portugal
Vila Nova, Daniele Universidade Federal de Goiás Brazil
Viswanathan, K Kuperan Universiti Utara Malaysia Malaysia
Viviane, Amanajas Universidade Federal do Ceará Brazil
Wise, Sarah AFSC, NOAA USA
Yingst, Alexandra University Centre of the Westfjords Iceland