Linking small-scale fisheries co-management to U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

Small-scale fisheries account for 90% of global fishers and 40% of the global catch. Effectively managing small-scale fisheries is, therefore, crucial to progressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Co-management and community-based fisheries management are widely considered the most appropriate forms of governance for many small-scale fisheries. We outlined relationships between small-scale fisheries co-management and attainment of the SDGs, including evidence for impacts and gaps in dominant logic. We identified 11 targets across five SDGs to which small-scale fisheries co-management (including community-based fisheries management) can contribute; the theory of change by which these contributions could be achieved; and the strength of evidence for progress toward SDG targets related to various co-management strategies. Our theory of change links the 11 SDG targets by qualifying that progress toward some targets is contingent on others being achieved first. We then reviewed 58 case studies of co-management impacts from the Pacific Islands––a region rich in local marine governance––to evaluate evidence of where, to what degree, and with how much certainty different co-management strategies conferred positive impacts to each SDG target. These strategies included access restrictions, permanent area closures, periodic closures, and gear and species restrictions. Although many studies provide evidence linking multiple co-management strategies to improvements in resource status (SDG 14.4), there was limited evidence of follow-on effects, such as improvements in catch (SDG 2.3, 2.4), livelihoods (SDG 1.2), consumption (SDG 2.1), and nutrition (SDG 2.2). Our findings suggest that leaps of logic and assumptions are prevalent in co-management planning and evaluation. Hence, when evaluating co-management impacts against the SDGs, consideration of ultimate goals is required, otherwise, there is a risk of shortfalls between aspirations and impact.
Date Available
Research Themes