TBTI at MARE ‘People and the Sea’ Conference 2019

Learning from the past, imagining the future

This jubilee conference (...) takes ‘time’ as its theme. In full awareness of the major ongoing changes in the knowledge industry and how people interact with coasts and seas, we first delve into the past: what have we learned, and to what extent are we making the most of these learning opportunities? From whom should we be learning, and how do we engage in the learning process? To what extent are the insights of earlier generations of social scientists studying maritime affairs and coastal life still relevant to us? We then look forward and ask ourselves what social scientists can contribute to understanding and dealing with coastal and maritime challenges of the future. (...) What perspectives and skills do we have to offer to science and the world; what are our strengths and where do our limitations lie? Under the broad theme “learning from the past, imagining the future”, we investigate a myriad of matters in the context of six streams, each of which highlights a particular aspect of coastal and oceanic affairs.

MARE Conference Book, MARE 'People and the Sea' Conference 2019

On June 24-28, 2019, marine social science scholars from around the globe gathered at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands for the 10th edition of the MARE People & the Sea Conference, under the theme 'learning from the past, imagining the future'.

Too Big To Ignore - Global Partnership for Small-Scale Fisheries Research had a strong presence at the conference, which started with a keynote address on 'Life Above Water' by TBTI leader Dr. Svein Jentoft, and was followed by special sessions on 'Blue Justice' and on 'Gender in Fisheries' convened by TBTI members. MARE Conference 2019 was a great opportunity for TBTI members and students to connect with the scientific community and discuss cutting-edge research on marine social sciences in an invaluable learning environment.

Life above water

TBTI leader Dr. Svein Jentoft opened MARE Conference 2019 with his keynote address entitled ‘Life above water’, in which he showcased how changes in fisheries affect communities, focusing particularly on the fate of coastal communities and their role in small-scale fisheries. He started his talk by saying that "Small-scale fishers and fish workers sustain themselves from the life below water, but construct their lives and communities based on what is on land; people who fish depend on their communities as much as on their boats and gear". Prof. Jentoft concluded that, too often, we assume that nature and biology determines all else in fisheries, including what happens in communities, but in fact, the causal arrow often goes from the community to the natural resources.

Want to learn more about the issues covered in the keynote? Read the first book published under the TBTI Global Book Series 'Life Above Water: Essays of Human Experiences of Small-Scale Fisheries' by Svein Jentoft. The book offers thoughtful reflections about small-scale fisheries and provide the public with a way to understand the ‘why’ question of social science research, at the same time encouraging fellow social and transdisciplinary scientists to continue to work towards making real change on the ground while maintaining scientific integrity. For those reading about small-scale fisheries for the first time, ‘Life Above Water’ brings to the fore the meaning and value of small-scale fisheries and why we should care about them.

Calling attention to Blue Justice

At this year's MARE conference, TBTI focused on the issue of 'Blue Justice' for ocean users and sustainability within the context of small-scale fisheries. If you wish to learn more about this topic, read about our two special sessions Transdisciplinary Fisheries Sciences for Blue Justice: The Need to Go Between, Across and Beyond, convened by TBTI member Milena Arias Schreiber and TBTI Director Ratana Chuenpagdee & Blue Justice for small-scale fisheries in the context of fishing opportunities and markets: A lens for SDG14b, convened by TBTI members Alicia Said and Jose Pascual-Fernández.

Reflections from TBTI students and members

Although much work is done in quantitative social science to inform policy makers, with qualitative work digging into the immense nuances of these challenges, the point of conferences such as MARE is to not play by the rules set by the current political system that has produced such failures, but to critically think of why we are in the situation we are in, and to, through rigorous research, explore and elucidate how coastal peoples are living in this globally-changing world. Research presented at this conference foregrounded principles such as sustainability and equity, principles that are informed by a social justice focus. This approach has led to critical examinations of how we govern our oceans at the highest scales and the on-the-ground implications of these decisions.

It was a real privilege to be in the room as this global and transdisciplinary group asked itself critical questions about what Blue Justice should achieve, how it should be defined, and how it can challenge neoliberal policy agendas like Blue Growth. It was also interesting to consider how communities in both the Global North and South can frame Blue Justice, including the rural coastal communities in Newfoundland I study which are so often labelled as declining and undeserving of support. I felt energized to go to the Northern Peninsula, where my research is taking place, and ask residents how they feel their communities have experienced injustice and what a concept like Blue Justice could mean for them.

My reflection after a week of thoroughly intellectual interchange is that, after twenty years, marine social sciences have made advanced and positive strides in research. Unfortunately, it is still necessary to defend and justify the appropriateness and relevance of the social science. There is a strong resistance to formally recognize social sciences which are, by themselves, critical for a better understanding and addressing of current and future challenges in society. The limited and sustained decrease in availability of funding sources for financing social science research seems to be the unfortunate trend in both the Global North and South. There are, nevertheless, opportunities to urge for the strengthening of collaborative and participatory involvement of varied sectors (e.g. state, markets, civil society organization etc.). At the end of the day, it is these sectors and people to whom TBTI dedicates its work.

Discussing gender in small-scale fisheries

On June 27th, TBTI members Katia Frangoudes, Siri Gerrard and Danika Kleiber organized a special session at the MARE 'People and the Sea' Conference 2019 titled ‘(En)Gendering Change in Small-scale Fisheries and Fishing Communities in a Globalized World’. All three organizers are coordinators of the TBTI ‘Women and Gender’ research cluster. This session showcased several papers from the Maritime Studies (MAST) special issue, which discusses global topics on women and gender in fisheries, addressing intersecting topics such as labour, migration organizations, participation in the public sphere, property rights in fisheries and aquaculture, climate change, and capacity building.