Fisherfolks in the Meghna river, Bangladesh. Photo: Jahangir Alam/CNRA

The FISH Framework: Potential pathway for inclusive Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) governance

Download The learning brief on The FISH Framework: Potential pathway for inclusive Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) governance 

The International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022) was officially launched on 19th November 2021. One of the key IYAFA objectives is to enhance global awareness about, understanding of, and action to support the contribution of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture to sustainable development, and more specifically in relation to food security and nutrition, poverty eradication and the use of natural resources. To contribute to the IYAFA 2022 discussions and actions, TROSA is sharing this FISH Framework as a pathway for more inclusive small-scale fisheries governance.

Small-scale fisheries (SSF) are important source of food and income for many communities. According to the latest State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA, 2020), in 2018 more than 50 million people were engaged in the primary sector of aquaculture and fisheries in Asia and nearly 14 percent of them were women. Sustainability of many small-scale fisheries is threatened due to overfishing and other factors, such as climate change impacts. With increasing pressures from within and external to small-scale fisheries, benefits are not equitably and fairly shared, and it is often the poor and marginalized groups, and in particular women, who are left behind. While efforts to support and strengthen more inclusive SSF governance are growing and there is a need to develop more context-specific and culturally appropriate mechanisms to empower marginalized groups in SSF.

With an aim to build such locally-led SSF governance initiatives, the Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) project is collaborating with small-scale fisheries communities in Bangladesh and India. As part of this, the project has developed two innovative practices of Nodi Boithak (River Meetings) and Hilsa Watch, which support communities-led data collection, analysis and its use in policy engagement at the local levels. Nodi Boithak facilitates regular river meetings where communities come together to discuss various river issues such as fisheries, pollution, sand mining and erosion and explore ways to address these through locally-led initiatives. Hilsa Watch is a community-led, citizen science initiative whereby youth from local fisher communities analyze various issues related to Hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) fisheries governance, including the seasonal bans and its impact on fishers’ livelihoods and the fisheries.

Building on the initial insights and lessons, the project developed a FISH Framework in 2020. This FISH Framework highlights various opportunities to mobilize more local, national, and regional level collective action on inclusive SSF governance and in turn contribute to SSF Guidelines mainstreaming.

This Learning Brief analyses some of these opportunities and proposes a more human rights-based SSF governance that leaves no one behind. We hope this framework is useful in mobilizing more collaboration, dialogue and action among various stakeholders as part of the upcoming International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022).

We welcome your suggestions, comments and interest to collaborate on this work.