The Role Of The Small-Scale Fishery Sector

Imagine walking through the streets of Istanbul on a sunny Sunday morning next to the Bosphorus. The people are talking and eating simit as the seagulls are flying past them. Even in this small scenery, we can feel the traces of the local culture easily. However one aspect of this culture always stands out: the fishermen. With their quaint boats and hooks ready, most of these fishermen you’ll encounter will have been doing this job for generations and have become the norm of Istanbul’s ecosystem. This tradition, however, might be coming to an end sooner than we’d think.

The Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey

Global warming has various impacts on the seas and the oceans. Rising sea levels causing shores to disappear, ocean acidification which harms the marine life immensely and of course in countries like Turkey, the Black Sea’s Mediterranisation. All these effects and more will cause the whole fishery industry to be impacted to its core. On top of this, it is nearly impossible to calculate all the different intricacies of local ecosystems which make it even more difficult to prepare in advance.

Small-scale fisheries are vital to the local culture in many countries. However, that isn’t the only purpose they serve. Small-scale fisheries also account for about half of the global fish catches and are crucial for sustainable poverty alleviation in developing countries. Overall, a life without this sector would be detrimental to many nations.

What Can Be Done ?

So what can be done on this issue? Well, the answer is both very simple and not simple at all. Firstly more research has to be done in order to predict as clearly as possible the effects of Climate Change on local environments. The more we know, the more accurately we can apply adaptation and mitigation strategies. And yet, it isn’t as simple as saying “Then just do more research!” Although research is crucial, due to the nature of ecosystems which are made up of millions of variables, it is impossible for us to guess at this stage what strategy will impact what area in what way. On top of this, most developing nations don’t have the means and the capital to conduct these large-scale researches.

You could also say “Well just prevent climate change then!”, which makes sense until you realize that it’s very unrealistic to think that we’ll live in a future without experiencing any negative impacts of climate change even if we miraculously decided to act now. That is not to say we shouldn’t; we have to if we want to avoid even more catastrophes. Moreover, actions against climate change could be regarded more as a prevention strategy rather than a coping strategy with a problem that already exists.

Where do we go from here then? Both research and climate action are extremely necessary however, adaptation and mitigation strategies are the key to the survival of these small-scale fisheries. According to the FAO (2018), here are some of the adaptation strategies that could be applied:

  • Exit strategies for fishers to leave fishing and livelihood diversification to protect economic stability
  • Compensation (e.g. gear replacement schemes)
  • Social protection and safety nets
  • Improvement or change of post-harvest techniques/practices and storage
  • Improvement of product quality: eco-labelling, reduction of post-harvest losses, value addition
  • Private investment in adapting fishing operations, as well as private research and development and investments in technologies
  • Enhanced cooperation mechanisms including those between countries to expand the capacity of fleets so that they can move between and across national boundaries in response to change in species distribution

Why does this matter?

Firstly, the small-scale fishery sector provides nutrition for people from many developing nations. On top of that, most of the people participating in this sector have been doing it for generations and thus, it has become a stable income source for the area. As many developed nations import most of their fish from developing nations, it also is an export source for these countries. For example, more than half of Spain’s fish imports are from developing countries. (EUMOFA 2019) Lastly, although small-scale fisheries change vastly depending on the region in question, it could be said without a doubt that the majority of these fishers play a significant role in the local culture. Just as it in the nature, the human ecosystem has, for many countries, gotten used to the idea of having these fishers around for centuries.

In the end, the climate crisis will affect almost all of us. There will be almost no sectors who will be unaffected by this. The society we live in is made up of various variables. A piece of the puzzle that may not seemingly be affecting you personally, will affect the society as a whole and thus, you.

For more information, please read WWF’s new report on this issue.

Categories: Opinion