‘Blue Justice’ at the center of TBTI Special Sessions at the 2019 MARE Conference
The linkage between the blue economy and Blue Justice is apparent; however, what the SSF communities are faced with is a combination of Blue Justice issues on top of the long-standing social justice issues within this context. Hence, more clarity and a clear definition is needed on the concept of Blue Justice, which will require going beyond SDG 14 and the SSF Guidelines.
Prepared by: Madu Galappaththi & Sisir Pradhan, University of Waterloo, Canada With contribution from Alicia Said, Jose Pascual-Fernández, Milena Arias Schreiber and Ratana Chuenpagdee
At this year’s MARE People and the Sea Conference, held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, TBTI convened two special sessions on ‘Blue Justice’. The first session titled ‘Transdisciplinary fisheries sciences for blue justice: The need to go between, across and beyond,’ co-organized by Milena Arias Schreiber (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Ratana Chuenpagdee (Memorial University, Canada) took place on June 25th. The second one on ‘Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Fishing Opportunities and Markets: A Lens for SDG14b’, co-organized by Alicia Said (Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer, France) and Jose Pascual-Fernández (Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), was held on June 26th. The last hour of the session on June 26th was opened for a general discussion about Blue Justice as a concept and what needs to be done in moving it forward.
Transdisciplinary fisheries sciences for blue justice: The need to go between, across and beyond
The main goal of the first session was to bring together scientists who apply or are interested in transdisciplinary research to explore ideas about how to bridge gaps by going between, across and beyond disciplines in working towards ‘Blue Justice’ for ocean users and sustainability. The session was structured into two segments, each consisting of a series of presentations followed by a short presentation by a discussant and an open discussion. The speakers deliberated on how small-scale fisheries (SSF) are impacted by the blue economy/blue growth agenda using multiple case studies from across the globe, including Malawi, Mexico, Indonesia, Senegal, Thailand, and South Africa. Various examples, such as Comunidad y Biodiversidad in Mexico and the SSF Academy in Senegal, were discussed as initiatives aimed at promoting knowledge co-production and engagement of diverse actors in decision-making, particularly in the implementation of the SSF Guidelines.
Across the presentations, the common threads identified as blue economy issues that require Blue Justice were vulnerability, marginalization, and threats to sustainability. Namely, blue economy/growth adds more complexity to the existing ‘wicked’ problems within SSF. Moreover, it does not result in a ‘level playing field’ or a ‘win-win-win’ scenario in terms of economic, ecological, and social outcomes for fisheries and ocean sustainability. Thus, there is an urgent need for directly addressing the justice aspect of this recent agenda for the oceans. TD enhancing collaboration and stakeholder engagement will be critical in this endeavor.
Sisir giving his take on the presentations. Photo credit: Madu Galappaththi
Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Fishing Opportunities and Markets: A Lens for SDG14b
The second session on Blue Justice for small-scale fisheries was focused on SDG14b, a UN Sustainable Development Goal that calls for the provision of ‘access of small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets’. Considered as a historic moment for SSF, their recognition in the SDGs is an important milestone that sets an important focus on how such target ought to be achieved. The aim of this session was to bring together research insights to showcase the governance challenges and opportunities concerning the planned or accomplished implementation of SDG14b. Consisting of academics, researchers and NGOs, the session welcomed different cases of resource and market access challenges for SSF in various countries including Portugal, Indonesia, Tenerife (Spain), Malta, France, Denmark, and other international experiences as well as regional and global analysis. The presenters experts provided theoretical and empirical insights about the governance transformations and challenges that need to be taken into account to inform new policies for facilitating Blue Justice in ocean and resource governance. This context facilitated a transdisciplinary dialogue on what it takes to achieve SDG14b and SSF sustainability.
Two key issues were highlighted in the session. First, the issues of resource access often came about because they are too frequently designed by national states to the disadvantage of SSF, as demonstrated in several presentations. Second, many case studies showcased the role of SSF in transforming markets, and the challenges that derive from these market transformations induced by trade agreements and industrial fisheries. An interesting subject, as demonstrated in the session, is the tuna market, which is dominated in some cases by few companies. They apparently have the capacity to influence the access to some key species like bluefin tuna, to the disadvantage of SSF. At the same time, as seen in Spain and other Mediterranean countries, some of these big companies have allegedly surpassed or outdone the legitimacy of the system, not only by having some control of the market but also by introducing a large amount of black market bluefin tuna to their benefit. Other experiences showed how it is possible to improve the local control of the markets by differentiating the catches with eco-labels or collective labels that may benefit SSF, as in the case of Indonesia. The session highlighted the need to conduct more research focused on SSF markets, not only for improving knowledge about the activity, but also as a way to help these fishers and their organizations to improve their economic viability.
Summary of the open discussion (June 26th)
The open discussion began with a summary presentation by Sisir and Madu, highlighting the importance of looking at Blue Justice in the context of SSF, related to vulnerability, marginalization, sustainability and gender. The difficulties in SSF governance and in achieving SDG14b are related mostly to complexities (e.g. spatial/temporal, scale, data/information, etc.), uncertainties and ambiguity about resource availability, governance direction and markets, among others. The urgency to address the injustice issues in SSF that emerge from Blue Growth and Blue Economy agendas needs to be recognized. Displacement and further marginalization is already happening to SSF; as captured below, the first step is to discuss what Blue Justice means, what the elements are and what the research community can do to promote Blue Justice for SSF.
Much of the open discussion was focused around the term ‘Blue Justice’ and whether it is an appropriate concept to address the issues and concerns in SSF. There was agreement that Blue Justice conveys a ‘powerful’ message and brings special attention to ‘winners and losers’. Thus, it has merits in terms of branding and communication. The term can also be used to immediately attract policy and public attention and positions the SSF justice issues within the ongoing global discussions around blue economy. It is also a future-oriented term and can potentially be used for campaigning among fisher communities.
Another key point of discussion was whether Blue Justice arises from the blue economy or whether it is part of wider social justice issues that have historically existed within SSF. The linkage between the blue economy and Blue Justice is apparent; however, what the SSF communities are faced with is a combination of Blue Justice issues on top of the long-standing social justice issues within this context. Hence, more clarity and a clear definition is needed on the concept of Blue Justice, which will require going beyond SDG 14 and the SSF Guidelines.
It was highlighted that the scholarly community is in a unique position to develop the concept of Blue Justice for SSF as it originates from the same community. Moreover, decisions can be made in terms of the key messages and the kinds of debates this requires. In developing the concept of Blue Justice, there might also be opportunities to draw from similar concepts such as climate justice. Therefore, defining Blue Justice as a broad and encompassing concept that builds on the wider discourse of social justice within SSF was acknowledged as the next step towards developing a research agenda in advancing this dialogue.
Want to learn more about the ‘Blue Justice’?
TBTI has been running the ‘Blue Justice’ campaign as a away to rectify the inconsistency between the development agenda and Target SDG14b. If you haven’t yet had a chance to learn about our ‘Blue Justice’ campaign, be sure to check our website. And while you’re there, why not pledge your commitment to ‘Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries’ commitment’? Find out more by clicking HERE.