Brussels 21 November 2023.
Today, Tuesday November 21, is World Fisheries Day, marking the twenty fifth occasion of this celebration since it was conceived in 1997. To mark this event, and to celebrate the 2022 International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA), LIFE members from 8 countries from the Baltic to the Mediterranean met in Galicia last week to discuss and envision what a fair future for small-scale fisheries in Europe should be.
The meeting, which took place in Vilanova de Arousa, Galicia, Spain from 13 to 16 November, was organised by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), LIFE and the association of “Mulleres Salgadas (MS)”. MS hosted the event, and organised a visit to meet with their members – women shellfish gatherers (mariscadoras) from the Ria de Arousa – and to understand and appreciate their profession.
This is the fourth and final in a series of events organised by ICSF to celebrate the 2022 International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA). For more information see: https://www.icsf.net/
The future is extremely uncertain for fisheries in general, and small-scale fisheries in particular. The meeting therefore set itself the task of seeking solutions, to develop a positive narrative for SSF, and to envision what a fair future would look like for this sub sector. The 45 participants from 16 countries gathering for the meeting included men and women fishers and their representatives, support organisations, scientists, academics and other interested parties.
From the University of Santiago, the Equal Sea Lab team kicked off the meeting with discussions on how to change the current narrative framing SSF in Europe. According to this narrative, SSF are outliers, marginalised in decision making processes and in the access arrangements for fishing opportunities and markets. Concentration of wealth, control and influence has also undermined democracy in fisheries management and fisheries sustainability, and created unjust and vulnerable food systems and supply chains. A new approach is needed, based on inclusive and sustainable socio-economic and environmental development, which prioritises the well being of coastal communities and the health of aquatic ecosystems.
To follow, LIFE looked into governance in fisheries, and how a differentiated approach is needed to govern SSF access to resources, to govern SSF fishery activities at sea, and to govern SSF access to markets in a fair manner. Cases of good practice from across Europe were presented. Then participants discussed how to strengthen capacities of SSF and support organizations, and what kinds of alliances need to be built. The final session was organised as a panel discussion to reflect on the earlier discussions from a women in fisheries perspective. This final panel included men and women members from both LIFE and Aktea, the European network of fisherwomen’s organisations, as well as mariscadoras and scientists.
The meeting concluded that constructing a new narrative and a fair future for SSF in Europe must include:
- The recognition of SSF as a cornerstone of vibrant aquatic economies, supported by equitable, inclusive and transparent policies with ecosystem regeneration at their core, as well as ensuring fishers’ basic human rights of access to the resources that sustain their livelihoods.
- Co-management schemes based on shared responsibility that weave environmental stewardship into the social fabric and the dynamic culture of communities.
- Viable SSF enterprises and decent work, fostering generational renewal, gender equality and inclusivity, underpinned by fair and participative processes.
- The recognition of traditional, inherited and experiential knowledge of small-scale fishers and fishworkers, including women and indigenous peoples as prerequisite for informing fisheries management decisions.
- Markets that reflect the true value of sustainable small-scale food production and which deliver fair rewards along the value chain, from net to plate.
- The gathering and use of information and innovation to support our cause, to enhance our natural world for all rather than restricting its use for a few, based on data sovereignty, accessible technology, and digital literacy
- Future proofing of SSF communities to the effects of climate change, and making them resilient to natural and human disasters
For further information:
Sivaja Nair, Programme Executive, ICSF firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandra Amezaga Menendez, Secretary, Mulleres Salgadas Association, email@example.com
Marta Cavallé, Executive Secretary, LIFE, firstname.lastname@example.org