Fisheries co-management is a partnership approach, where government and the fishery resource users share the responsibility and authority for the management of a fishery or fisheries in an area, based on collaboration between themselves and with other stakeholders.
However, many small-scale fisheries are operated by fishers who lack legal fishing rights and are not engaged in the governance system used to develop fishery management measures. This often leads to a system of management where one of the key fishery stakeholders – the fishers themselves – has been marginalized and excluded from the process.
Co-management offers opportunities to improve sustainability efforts through inclusive participation of all stakeholders.
Four key principles and pre-conditions must exist for co-management to be successful
- Access to Legal Fishing Rights: Fishers need to be officially recognized as having the right to fish before they can participate in fishery management. This means that fishers and vessels have to be registered and have fishing permits.
- Organizational Development and Leadership Capacity of Fishers: Co-management requires representative organizations that can both mobilize fishers in collective action and act on their behalf on a number of fronts, including the development of policies to improve the fisheries sector and the conservation of resources.
- Effective Participation of Fishers in Decision Making: The participation of fishers should occur within an official framework that creates clear opportunities for fishers to engage in the decision-making process at all relevant levels.
- Balancing rights and responsibilities: As stakeholders in the governance system, fishers also have the ability and responsibility to contribute their expertise and knowledge to managing the fishery through participation in science and research that can support management.
The Benefits of Co-management
- Environmental: When resource users are engaged in decision making it increases the knowledge base available to make informed policies and can result in better managed fisheries.
- Social: Fishers engaged in decision making helps to empower fishing communities to better address wider social challenges that they face.
- Economic: When fishers are fully engaged in co-management it leads to better fishery management that can result in improved economic returns through the reduction of potential inequities in the supply chain.
Learn about how co-management principles are being applied and put into action in artisanal and small-scale fisheries around the globe.
Legal Fishing Rights
SFP has been working with the Committee for the Sustainable Management of the Southern Pacific Jumbo Flying Squid (CALAMASUR), an industry-led group of squid producers, processors, and exporters from Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru, to ensure recognition of artisanal and small-scale fishers, as part of a larger effort to improve the regional sustainability of the fishery. When the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO), which manages jumbo flying squid, mandated for Peruvian artisanal vessels to be included in the registry of vessels that are monitored by SPRFMO, industry called on the government to complete the formalization of the Peruvian artisanal fleet, providing legal fishing rights to thousands of fishers through the campaign Pescaformal.
Participation in Decision Making
The Indonesian government is seeking stakeholder input on the proposed harvest strategy for the snapper-grouper fishery in one Fishery Management area. Efforts to begin organizing fishers in this area allowed fishers to participate in the stakeholder meetings to provide input to the government on the proposed management measures to implement minimum size limits, closed seasons, gear modifications, and other policies.
The organizing of artisanal fishers and processors from coastal states can enable their participation in Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), and by doing so leads RFMOs to more sustainable, science-based, and equitable fisheries management. A study by SFP, published in Ocean and Conservation Management, looked at the formation of CALAMASUR (Committee for the Sustainable Management of the Jumbo Flying Squid in the South Pacific) and its engagement over the past five years in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO). The study found that participatory governance schemes, as demonstrated by the efforts implemented by CALAMASUR with the SPRFMO, can result in better informed and more equitable outcomes for artisanal and small-scale fisheries.
SFP worked closely with fishers in seven provinces in Indonesia on the creation of the Indonesian BSC Fishers Communication Forum (Forkom Nelangsa), which provides a mechanism for fishers to share information and participate in national-level decision-making processes for blue swimming crab management.
Balancing Rights and Responsibilities
The new, fisher-led mahi mahi longline fishery improvement project (FIP) in Ecuador, which is being implemented by ASOAMAN, has collaborated with the national research institute of Ecuador (IPIAP) on the development and implementation of a data monitoring system where fishers collect data on their catch and bycatch of non-targeted species in the mahi fishery. Information will be used to monitor the fishery and develop appropriate bycatch mitigation techniques for the fishery.
What Can I Do?
Learn more about how you can support co-management and give fishers a greater voice in decision making and fisheries management.