Aliou Sall, Mundus maris SenegalA lot of focus was placed on the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication during this year's MARE Conference in Amsterdam. A specific workshop convened by Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris and Nicole Franz of FAO was titled “From crisis to recovery – how can research support recovery of fisheries resources and livelihoods? Exploring the case of Senegal”. It formed one of the contributions towards pushing implementation efforts of the SSF Guidelines further.

At about half the actual extractions officially unaccounted for, fisheries statistics in Senegal and neighbouring countries are a poor guide to policy and investment decisions. What is visible though is the huge increase in the number of fishing boats and effort over the last decade. This applies in the dynamic small-scale sector and frequent incursions of industrial vessels mostly flying different foreign flags into the coastal waters reserved for small-scale fishers. There is also significant disregard by most actors for regulations promulgated by the government with support by international aid projects.

Nicole Franz of FAOThe loss of income to public budgets from IUU fishing and the threats to livelihoods and food security, particularly of coastal communities this state of affairs engenders, can be considered a major obstacle to the development of the country.

The workshop benefitted from two short impulse talks about

(a) the potential for improvement in governance identified in a paper about the performance of the World Bank/IDA project intended to strengthen fisheries policy and management in the country,

(b) the crisis of authority and the opportunities arising from critically engaged research and involvement of e.g. small-scale fishers in research to reduce conflicts among stakeholders and strengthen the governance capabilities, followed lateron by

(c) highlights on the Voluntary Guidelines as a platform for spearheading reform of ocean governance and the contributions of research in enabling the associated processes.

Intense conversations during the World Café Cornelia E Nauen summarised key points of the first paper based on field research in Senegal used for a fine-grained analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the recently completed WB/IDA project. Click here for the abstract.

In his brief presentation, Aliou Sall cautioned about the loss of authority and trust among actors and institutions focused on Senegal, but observed elsewhere as well. He gave some hints on what could be done about that to support effective policy reform and invited participants to compare this with their own professional experience. Click here for the abstract.

Following these first impulse talks workshop participants were invited to a first round of intense discussions in small groups focusing on the question: What are the most promising avenues for research to support recovery of fisheries resources and the communities depending on them?

Cornelia explained the etiquette of World Café conversations and the importance of listening actively to one another and of looking for patterns and collectively identified strong points.

Second round of conversationsAfter this first round of conversations, while participants changed tables, Nicole Franz highlighted key features of the Voluntary Guidelines and expressed the expectation that research would play a role in implementation. Click here to read the SSF Guidelines.

The second round of conversations focused on the question: How can research support the implementation of the Guidelines? Upon a clarification question, it was agreed that both the type of research as a process and the content of the research could be a focus of the exchange.

At the end of it all, participants from each table came up with what they considered the most crucial levers for research to make a positive difference in the implementation efforts and pinned their proposals on the flip chart. The following key points came up repeatedly came up repeatedly as collective prioritisation:

  • Analysing the interests of different stakeholders,

  • learning from the past, incl. failures, and l

  • ooking at the issues at different scales.

The majority of participants wanted to team up for a write up and further development of their results in order to share their analysis more widely through a publication. Let's hope it works.

Christina Stringer, ass. Professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand spoke about slavery in modern fisheriesOther highlights of the conference were three sessions on chapters of the book “The Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines. Global Implementation” to which Aliou Sall and Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris had also contributed one. The four editors, Svein Jentoft, Ratana Chuenpagdee, María José Barragán-Paladines and Nicole Franz, have managed to line up altogether 97 authors for the 37 chapters and an extensive index to navigate the 812 pages of text. Listening to authors added yet another dimension to the book, such as hearing Rolf Willmann live about the background negotiations leading up to the SSF Guidelines, which were adopted by the FAO Committee of Fisheries in 2014.

The conference was also the perfect venue for casting light onto the still little researched issue of slave labour in some industrial fisheries, which has been characterised as a particularly hideous form of subsidy. The keynote address by Christina Stringer, assoc. Professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, elaborated on “seafood slavery” in New Zealand's deep sea fishing industry. The issues are now regularly discussed at the International Labour Organization (ILO) of the United Nations, but require many different perspectives and ways to discontinue the practice. Foremost, urgent action is demanded by the companies directly concerned. They need to clean up their supply chains. But more systematic research, public attention through civil society and more decisive action from responsible government departments are indispensible for building up further pressure against the profiteering on the back of forced labour.

Thumbs up for this year's MARE Conference, again an excellent venue to learn about latest research on highly relevant issues for our societies and for catching up with friends and colleagues.

Photos by CE Nauen.