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Taking an ecosystem approach to small scale fishing in the tropics

Implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) in small scale tropical marine fisheries
Project leader
Douglas Beare
29 Dec 2011
28 Dec 2014
From beach-side communities dotted across the Solomon Islands archipelago, to coastal villages lining Tanzania’s Indian Ocean shoreline, thousands of communities rely on coastal fisheries. Over the last half century, the march of development and global food demands have drastically altered the marine and coastal ecosystems that are the food baskets for millions. Overfishing and damage to critical mangrove and coral reef environments seriously jeopardizes the livelihoods of poor communities and limits their potential for further economic development.
The ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) management framework was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in recognition of the need to consider aquatic ecosystems as a whole, to ensure sustainable development of the world’s fisheries. A guiding principal of the EAF framework is that the aquatic environments that support today’s generations be maintained for the benefit of future generations.
The vast majority of fishers in developing nations work in small-scale fisheries. Despite this, small-scale fisheries are often overlooked or placed in the ‘too hard’ basket when it comes to implementing sustainable development initiatives such as the EAF. This project, funded by the European Commission, aims to rectify this through a three-year initiative that will utilize the EAF framework for the benefit of small-scale tropical fisheries. The multi-region project will target eight fisheries in Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania and the Solomon Islands, and is set to bolster the capacity of these small-scale fisheries to reduce poverty in the communities they support.

A Collaborative Approach

There is incredible diversity in how small-scale marine fisheries operate around the world, and the environmental, political and resource challenges that they face. For this reason, at each stage of the project, scientists will work in close collaboration with fisheries stakeholders to meet the particular needs, regulatory context and capacity of the individual fisheries involved. Members of coastal communities, including women, local managers of marine protected areas (MPAs) and fisheries, and representatives from non-governmental organizations, and local and national government organizations will be encouraged to participate.
The WorldFish Center will conduct the multi-region project from offices in each of the four participating countries. Research teams will be comprised of WorldFish Center researchers, as well as collaborators from the Indonesian Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB) and Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) in Indonesia; the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Philippines; the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) in the Solomon Islands; and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.
The project is divided into two phases: a planning phase, followed by an implementation phase.

Identifying EAF Strategies

During the first year of the project, a participatory diagnosis model will be used in a two step process to engage fisheries stakeholders at the national level, and then local communities at the individual fishery level. Through surveys, workshops and discussions, this collective learning approach aims to better understand the existing institutional arrangements that small-scale fisheries operate within. Participants will identify both the challenges and the opportunities that an EAF management framework presents for them. Ultimately, this phase of the project will result in tailored plans of action for implementing EAF strategies at each of the project sites.

EAF Strategies in Action

In the second and third years of the project, the tailored EAF strategies identified through the planning phase will be implemented and tested in collaborative pilot-scale operations. During this experimental phase of the project, the adopted strategies will be monitored, so that adjustments can be made in a continual process to hone the management practices to the local context.
By involving local industry and government players in the process of fisheries management reform, the project is helping to embed to EAF framework into the existing institutional structures of each country. The project is also generating valuable insights that will inform future implementation of EAF strategies in other developing nations, so that they too may manage their fisheries in an environmentally sustainable way.