After postponing the event originally scheduled for 2020 event due to the pandemic, the 20th Biennial IIFET Conference was held 18th-22nd July 2022 in Vigo, Spain. Vigo has a long-time connection with the ocean. Vigo’s Bay was mentioned by Jules Verne in his book ‘20,000 Leagues under the Sea’. It is now one of the world’s largest fishing ports and one of the busiest in terms of volume. Spain holds the third rank among European countries for the dimension of its small-scale fishery. This has a really high impact in the local culture, tradition and social life which is reflected by the large number of associations, communities and programmes present on the territory. The strong connection of Vigo with its roots in the fisheries community is clearly displayed in the impressive murals dedicated to fishers and seafood around the city like the one showing a 'mariscadora' - a woman working in seafood collection with a 'percebes', a typical Galician goose barnacle (courtesy S.T. Boschetti).

The conference was hosted in the massive building of the Auditorium del Mar, not too far from Vigo’s ‘lonja’ (the auction market) and the fishing port where many of the freezing companies are based. Unfortunately, because of covid regulations, visiting the lonja is still not allowed to the public and the fishing port hides behind the high fences of the many freezing companies built along the whole waterfront of the city.

The IIFET theme of this year was ‘Managing a changing environment’. It was a timely topic considering the rise of temperatures in the past years and widespread effects that has on fish population distribution and biology, and the new challenges for the livelihood of fishers’ communities, among others.

The beginning of the conference was dedicated the Policy Day promoted by FAO and the European Commission’s Directorate General MARE. It focused on what are considered to be the main traits of the future socio-economic challenges for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

The following three days were filled with talks from researchers and professionals in the fisheries economic sector, with keynote speeches from some of the main authorities in the field, such as Ragnar Arnason, Gunnar Knapp, Rashid Sumaila, Jon G. Sutinen, Martin Smith and Juan Carlos Seijo.

Simona T Boschetti and Mosunmola Lydia Adeleke, members of Mundus maris, attended the conference. Mundus maris contributions were among only few papers to focus on social and community aspects and challenges the small-scale fisheries is facing.

On the 20th July, Simona T Boschetti presented two papers on behalf of other Mundus maris members who were not able to attend. The first presentation, ‘Fighting their corner in the value chain - community based social protection mechanisms specific to women’ illustrated the research based on work of Mundus maris founding member Aliou Sall in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea. His work explores the (i) strategies developed by women in small-scale fisheries in the field of social protection and the link with their important place in the value chain, (ii) the process by which these strategies are questioned in relation with the feminisation of vulnerabilities and (iii) the responses of women to contain these shocks. See the slides here.

The second presentation, ‘A Small-Scale Fisheries Academy - Strengthening Capacities of women and men for collective action’ by Cornelia E Nauen, Maria Fernanda Arraes Treffner, Aliou Sall and Stella Williams, highlighted the active and inclusive adult learning methodology used in the Academy. Its focus is to support learners to develop a vision of what they consider a good life and how to plan concrete steps on an individual and collective change journey to achieve concrete benefits.

The methods were successfully tested on socially and economically sensible issues such as gender equity and climate change adaptation and by connecting knowledge about the global sustainability agenda with local realities and experiences. The Academy works with a focus on supporting the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Ensuring Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries. With a comparatively small investment it has a great potential for realizing a sustainable long-term process that can benefit any community in need of a change. The slides can be seen here.

Papers were well received, although there was no time for questions, so further discussions with other attendees took place during the coffee breaks and at social events.

The first prize for the best paper was awarded to a paper the ‘Challenges and the Prospects of Women Fisher Folk in Makoko, Lagos State, Nigeria’. Ayodele Oloko is first author together with several co-authors. Congratulations! Mundus maris member Lydia Mosunmola Adeleke received the prize on behalf of Ayodele Oloko.

The conference convened only on site brought together a reduced number of participants due to the still challenging travelling conditions in some countries. However, those on the spot were enthusiastic to meet and network, and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the IIFET conferences and remembering the highlights of the previous editions screened during the conference breaks and at the different social events.

The next IIFET conference was announced to be in Penang, Malaysia, in 2024, hosted by WorldFish.