Posts Tagged ‘fisheries co-management’

Chandrika Sharma and ICSF

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Most of the best leadership and action related to many of the stresses now plaguing our planet comes from international NGOs.

Sorting shrimp in Bagladesh. Small scale coastal fisheries vary immensely, but all need support (

Sorting shrimp in Bagladesh. Small scale coastal fisheries vary immensely, but all need support (

An effective example is The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF). In the face of the calamitous impact of offshore, industrial fishing fleets, its ambitious mission is “to support fishing communities and fishworker organizations, and empower them to participate in fisheries from a perspective of decent work, equity, gender-justice, self-reliance and sustainability”.

ICSF encourages the development and protection of small scale fisheries, like this one in Cambodia (

ICSF encourages the development and protection of small scale fisheries, like this one in Cambodia (

It started up 28 years ago and now involves coastal fishing communities around Southeast Asia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and East Africa. The ongoing challenge continues to be to achieve recognition of the importance of small-scale fisheries, fishworkers and fishing communities.

One of its publications is An Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries that emphasizes the need for balancing human wellbeing and ecological wellbeing, for application of both the adaptive and precautionary approaches, for recognition of the value traditional knowledge, and for community participation in co-management.

This truly identifies the needs and hopes of the coastal fisheries of the whole world.

Chandrika Sharma was Executive Secretary of ICSF. She was a passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, on her way from KL to Beijing and then on to Mongolia where she would have represented ICSF at the 32nd Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific.

Chandrika Sharma

Chandrika Sharma

We so need rational, articulate, committed, persistent and well-informed social activists like Chandrika Sharma to give us at least some hope in these increasingly perilous times.

Losing her is distressing for too many reasons.
I wish that I had known her.

Community Leadership

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Why do some fisheries fail, from overfishing or mismanagement, while others appear to be successful, or at least sustainable?

A lovely study, published in Nature this past month (online Jan 5, but hard copy Feb 17), indicates that a carefully community-based, co-managed fishery is the way to go – perhaps the only way that fisheries can be prevented from crashing.

Such co-management involves the usual scientists and managers, but it also depends on the fishers, and a willingness by all to work together. The common objective is to manage the fishery successfully, while at the same time sustaining the fishing community. Who can argue with that?

The authors of the study (Nicolas Gutierrez, Ray Hilborn and Omar Defeo) call it “the only realistic solution for the majority of the world’s fisheries.” A strong statement.

They assessed 130 co-managed fisheries in 44 countries, and of course the diversity in ecology, community, and politics of the fisheries was immense. They identified a number of features of a successful fishery, and their conclusion is that the more features a fishery possesses, the more likely it is to be sustainable. That’s not surprising, but they also ranked the importance of the various ingredients.

This map of co-managed fisheries around the world is from the Nature article. Colours indicate how many useful features a fishery possesses - successful ones have most (light and dark green), while least successful ones have only one (red). (

The most successful examples of sustainable fisheries include protected areas where fishing is restricted, territorial user rights by those doing the fishing, and accepted quotas of what individuals or the community can catch.

Most important by far, however, is the presence of at least one individual in the community who is well respected, energetic, and deeply committed to the success of the co-management of the fishery. Of course there are conflicts over aspects like quotas, licenses, and poaching in even the best of co-managed fisheries, and such a community leader needs political skills as well..

This is reassuring news. Even hopeful. The other components are certainly necessary – scientists assessing stock sizes and proposing what the quotas should be, managers providing a diversity of regulations – but without strong community leadership, successful co-management is unlikely. And every fishing community is certain to have talented individuals interested and willing to provide the necessary leadership.

The advantages to community based co-management are so very clear. The authors of the Nature article point them out:
– Enhanced ownership by fishers, encouraging responsible fishing.
– Greater sensitivity to socio-economic and ecological constraints.
– Improved management through use of local knowledge.
– Collective ownership by fishers in decision making.
– Increased compliance with regulations through peer pressure.
– Better monitoring, control and surveillance by fishers.

On the one hand, it seems odd that we are only truly learning this now. What have we been thinking during all these years of fisheries failures? On the other hand, co-management is truly happening in more and more fisheries, and we now know a lot about what makes co-management succeed.

This is real, not fantasy. Community-based co-management works.
Community leaders arise! Now is your time.