Too big to ignore – too important to fail

​Professor Ratana Chuenpagdee brought small scale fisheries into the spotlight at ICES ASC 2015 during Thursday's plenary lecture.
Published: 25 September 2015

​An estimated 560 million people, or 8% of the global population, directly or indirectly depend on fishing for a living. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 90% of these are involved in small-scale fisheries.

For the most part, research and management efforts have not differentiated between small- from large-scale fisheries, leaving the former at a disadvantage and worsening their conditions. Professor Chuenpagdee is involved with a project that aims to alleviate the issue. The goals of the "Too Big To Ignore: Global Partnership for Small-Scale Fisheries Research" network are to elevate the profile of small-scale fisheries, help rectify their marginalization, and  develop local and global capacity to address governance challenges facing this sector.

"The opportunity with the project is to try to connect fishing people who are facing the same challenges and trying to do similar things so that they don't feel isolated. There is power for them in knowing that they are not alone, and that there are a lot of others doing the same thing. So they don't become marginalized but more visible instead."

Broadening the perspective

Chuenpagdee invited the ICES community to use innovative thinking and widen their outlook on fisheries management.

"We might think that the only way to manage fisheries properly is to know everything about everybody, but that's not going to happen – and sometimes that is not even the right approach," she said.

"We need to really broaden our perspective to realize that there are other issues, other datasets, and other considerations that need to be part of the decision making process. I think this provides a nice challenge to the ICES community."

She doesn't claim that this would be an easy task without hurdles. But guiding principles are already out there, with the FAO this year publishing Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

"The guidelines offer an umbrella of the principles and guidance to think about how to move forward together. They are the instrument that will help us see the big picture and create understanding of the issues," Chuenpagdee explained.

Reaching out to researchers

The Too Big To Ignore network includes more than 200 scientists from 45 countries, partnering with 15 organizations around the world. Chuenpagdee invited ICES scientists to join the network, and to add their information in the Information System on Small-Scale Fisheries (ISSF) database, an online, open-access crowd-sourcing platform.

"We figure that the only way to learn as much about small-scale fisheries around the world is by inviting contributions from people who know about them," Chuenpagdee said, adding that researchers can become part of the conversation.

"The research community can really help provide legitimacy for the fishing people. They can speak with a more authoritative voice to the government while at the same time bridging the gap."

Ratana Chupagnee is the Canada Research Chair in Natural Resource Sustainability and Community Development, and a Professor in the Department of Geography in the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Canada.​

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​Ratana Chuenpagdee speaking to the ICES ASC 2015 audience on Thursday.

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Too big to ignore – too important to fail

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