by Adam Soliman
Failed fisheries management policies have led to catastrophic effects on livelihoods in coastal communities. In short, switching to catch shares that promote transferability without restrictions has led to a concentration of benefits to the detriment of small-scale fishers. Even if the adverse effects and social injustices were not predictable at the time these schemes were adopted, it is obvious now. Previous experience has made it clear that new policies should be founded on a participatory approach; that is, to include fishers and communities in the decision-making process.
Incorporating all stakeholders in making decisions requires a leveling of the playing field. In a system where the government plays a strong role in fisheries governance, it is difficult to ignore the fact that policies are skewed towards properly represented, well-lobbied groups, generally the traits of large operators and industrial fishing companies. This in turn highlights the importance of cooperation and representation among small-scale fishers to have equal bargaining and negotiation capabilities. Leadership, empowerment and education are among the necessary issues for effective participation.
One particular area that needs to be addressed, however, is access to justice. Do our coastal communities have adequate legal representation? Even if they do, can small-scale fishers afford such representation? Are there legal practitioners – who understand the area of fisheries management and particularly its effects on SSFs – to address the needs and challenges of our coastal communities? These questions should be addressed if one were to be serious about empowering small-scale fisheries’ participation in managing our fisheries. These questions are among those which I will attempt to answer through my upcoming field work in Nova Scotia this summer.