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TWAS Newsletter
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Helping small fisheries prosper

Helping small fisheries prosper

As global trade expands, how can small fisheries be managed? A science diplomacy workshop in Mexico, co-organized by TWAS, is exploring solutions

Merida, Mexico – TWAS has joined with the US-based Environmental Defense Fund to provide training on "Tools and techniques for sustainable fisheries management in Latin America", with a focus on small-scale fisheries.

Eighteen participants have convened in Merida – three each from Belize, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico and Peru,These participants include scientists, government officials and representatives from local fishery communities and nongovernmental organizations. They have been joined by five masters and PhD students participating in the Latin America Fisheries Fellows programme of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition, nine experts from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) offices in the United States and Mexico are present to provide the training and lead discussions. The event runs from 27 September to 2 October 2014.

The workshop kicked off with a field visit to Progresso, close to Merida, and a discussion of the local situation with Jose Luis Carillo, president of the Cooperatives of Central and Eastern Yucatan. Carillo explained that local fishers traditionally caught lobsters, octopus and finfish. In addition, however, due to growing exports to China, a largely unregulated market has grown for sea cucumbers.  

The workshop is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and is part of a larger programme that has made TWAS a hub for events exploring the relationship between science and diplomacy. Peter McGrath and Sara Dalafi from the TWAS science diplomacy project helped organize the event.

Many facts now demonstrate the need for science diplomacy when discussing the long-term sustainability of small-scale fisheries and the livelihoods of the fishermen and their families. For example, scientific data for assessing and monitoring small-scale fisheries is often absent or limited, and the catches of small-scale fisheries can have markets on the other side of the world.
The workshop will explore how to assess the health of coastal ecosystems, how to measure the vulnerability of fish stocks and estimate their depletion rates, as well as data collection for monitoring purposes. Breakout sessions will guide participants through the process of designing a catch-share programme and assessing stock vulnerabilities in order to develop practical management options for the challenges faced by particular fisheries in the participating countries.

"Small-scale fisheries are vital to the livelihoods of families around the globe, but many lack the information and resources for effective management," said Rod Fujita, director of Research and Development of EDF’s Oceans Program.

“Through this workshop, and the wider work of EDF in many countries, we hope to equip managers, fishermen, and scientists with the tools and confidence needed to improve both the management of fish populations and the livelihoods of the local communities who rely on them."