The tragedy of our Legacy - How global management discourses affect small scale fisheries in the South?

CEES Extra seminar by Jeppe Kolding  



Modern fisheries management discourse is supported by two fundamental narratives that have global impacts. One is the fear of open access regimes, and the other is the condemnation of catching under-sized and immature fish. These narratives have existed for more than half a century and originate from the Common Property Theory (Gordon 1954) and the Maximum Yield per Recruit theory (Beverton and Holt 1957). Our aim is to critically discuss and evaluate these narratives which have been developed within the context of scientific management of single-species industrial fisheries. We will show that the underlying assumptions can be seriously wrong and particularly absurd in fluctuating multi-species, multi-gear artisanal fisheries. Fishing effort in small scale fisheries is often largely regulated by natural production, like other top predators, and many targeted fish stocks and fish communities display a high degree of resilience. Furthermore, in spite of common belief, small scale unregulated, non-selective, adaptive fishing patterns could be healthier and far more ecosystem conserving than the current imposed single species management strategies. Many of these fisheries are serving as a 'social security system' - a common good and thereby function as a 'last resort' for economic mishap. Limiting open access will undermine the role of small-scale fisheries to provide insurance, particularly for the poorest and least advantaged. The immense pressure to adapt to modern fisheries management thinking and economic theory is based on flawed assumptions and will not only have negative social effects, but also negative biological effects.

Jeppe Kolding
Department of Biology, University of Bergen

Published Feb. 3, 2012 3:19 PM