Transboundary Interactions cluster: Call for contribution for MARE 2017

Combatting IUU-Fishing and the Plight of Small-Scale Fisheries: a Blessing or a Threat?

Panel organizers: Joeri Scholtens, Andrew Song and Simon Bush.
Panel proposal MARE Conference, July 2017


In this ‘Too Big To Ignore’ (TBTI)-affiliated roundtable we aim to initiate a critical discussion with scholars and practitioners on the consequences for small-scale fisheries of the increased policy attention to combat IUU fishing.

IUU fishing is an increasingly popular umbrella term used for many things that are considered wrong with global fisheries, e.g., inadequate boat- and catch registrations, use of Flags-of-Convenience, lack of monitoring and control, poor data recording, use of banned fishing gears, non-compliance with RFMOs, transshipments, piracy fishing, slavery, and human rights violations. It is a major issue, as the ‘losses’ from illegal and unreported fishing worldwide were estimated to represent 15 to 30% of global marine catches (Agnew et al. 2009).

In 2001 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) drafted an International Plan of Action, with a set of principles guiding member states in their national level effort to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing (FAO 2001). In 2010 the EU has taken a leadership position in combatting IUU fishing by adopting a comprehensive regulation to make its market access conditional upon exporting countries’ efforts to prevent, deter and eliminate so-called IUU fishing. These recent policies have been widely endorsed and celebrated, both from an environmental and a social justice perspective, thus securing enthusiastic support from a broad alliance of environmental movements, environmental justice movements, marine conservationists, NGOs, international governmental organizations, anti-piracy lobbies as well as EU bureaucrats.

However, it is not well understood that what these policies actually imply for the plight of small-scale fisheries. We contend that the very definition of IUU fishing, the wide variety of fishing activities that it lumps together, and the actual implementation practices of anti-IUU policies all requires much closer scrutiny. Here, we are interested in exploring both ‘trade’-related impacts of IUU fishing policies on SSF (e.g. export ban, trade regulation, report cards etc.) and the ‘fishing’ or ‘governance’ impact (e.g. livelihoods, slavery, compliance, national government response etc.).

The questions that will steer the panel include:

  • What exactly is illegal (whose law?), what is unregulated (does self regulation count?) and what counts as unreported (many SSF in the world do not ‘report’ their landings to a government official). To what extent have anti-IUU policies been sensitive to the particular circumstances of SSF?
  • What do we know so far of the consequences of anti-IUU fishing policies, both positive and negative, on small-scale fishers?
  • Is there a possibility that the IUU concept, while initiated to focus on large-scale fishing practices, may work as a new governmentality biased against SSF?
  • How have small-scale fishers (organizations) reacted in various places to the anti-IUU fishing policies?

In this roundtable we hope to facilitate a critical discussion on the implications of anti-IUU fishing policies for safeguarding small-scale fisheries. For the roundtable format, we suggest to have 6 short (5 minute) contributions, followed by a one-hour open discussion with all participants. Both empirical and theoretical insights are welcome. Based on this initial work, and depending on the available material and interest, we will plan towards more tangible collaboration like a co-authored publication or policy brief.

We have circulated this call to the network of scholars registered in the ‘transboundary interactions and SSF’ research cluster (part of TBTI). However, other scholars/practitioners are also more than welcome to join this panel!

To join this panel please send an email indicating in a few lines what you would like to speak on to Joeri Scholtens ( We will then get back to you. The deadline for submissions for the MARE conference is 31st of January, so we have to move rather quickly.

The call for contribution is now CLOSED.