BLUE JUSTICE

TBTI for Blue Justice. Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries.

The stakes have never been higher for small-scale fisheries: they face countless challenges such as poverty, food insecurity, access issues, gender inequity, resource depletion, habitat degradation and inequitable resource allocation. More recently, small-scale fisheries are being threatened by ‘blue economy’ and ‘blue growth’ initiatives – while these initiatives may lack a unifying definition, they have been criticized for being economic strategies that prioritize economic growth over sustainability. This situation is further convoluted by climate change, in unprecedented and ever-growing ways.

However daunting, we must tackle these challenges heads on. And the way we can do this is by implementing socially just responses, built on a comprehensive understanding of the natural, social and political systems that small-scale fisheries are entrenched within. For that reason, TBTI has been bringing the notion of ‘Blue Justice’ in the forefront, as a way to call attention to fairness and equity for the most marginalized and vulnerable fishing people. ‘Blue Justice’ acknowledges the historical rights of small-scale fishing communities to marine and inland resources, and coastal space, as traditional users. As a movement, ‘Blue Justice’ seeks to investigate pressures on small-scale fisheries, from other ocean uses, including industrial fisheries, coastal/marine tourism, aquaculture, energy production and others. At its core, Blue Justice encompasses social justice and human rights principles whilst being intrinsically tied to principles of environmental and climate justice.

WHY BLUE JUSTICE?

If not JUST, then what? If not NOW, then when?

1st volume of e-book ‘Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries – A Global Scan’ released

Pushing towards a more equitable and just space for small-scale fisheries requires, first and foremost, an understanding of the current situations, looking at the kind of injustices and inequity that may be happening and affecting women and men involved in small-scale fisheries, their families and their communities. With this in mind, TBTI has gathered stories and examples of policies, programs, projects, initiatives, regulatory frameworks, as well as other situations that create different types of injustice and inequity in small-scale fisheries. This first release of the ‘Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries – A Global Scan’ e-book contains 18 stories from 14 countries.

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Blue Justice Wikipedia entry

Blue Justice reflects a critical examination of how coastal communities and small-scale fisheries may be affected by blue economy and “blue growth” initiatives — initiatives that are being undertaken by institutions and governments globally to promote sustainable ocean development. The blue economy is also rooted in the ‘green economy’ and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, underlying sustainable development globally. Blue Justice acknowledges the historical rights of small-scale fishing communities to marine and inland resources, and coastal space, as traditional users for thousands of years in some cases. Thus, as a concept, it seeks to investigate pressures on small-scale fisheries, from other ocean uses, including industrial fisheries and coastal/marine tourism, aquaculture or energy production, promoted in the blue economy and blue growth development agenda, and how it may compromise the rights and the wellbeing of small-scale fisheries and their communities.

Fishing for Justice – original song by TBTI Global

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.

Discussion at the TBTI special session on Blue Justice at the 2019 MARE Conference

WHY BLUE JUSTICE?

If not JUST, then what? If not NOW, then when?

The “Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries” initiative calls for a holistic vision for the ocean and a transdisciplinary process that considers the injustices faced by small-scale fisheries in the past, and the disadvantaged position that some of them are currently in, to ensure a just transition to the future.

The stakes have never been higher for small-scale fisheries: they face countless challenges such as poverty, food insecurity, access issues, gender inequity, resource depletion, habitat degradation and inequitable resource allocation. More recently, small-scale fisheries are being threatened by ‘blue economy’ and ‘blue growth’ initiatives – a situation that is further convoluted by climate change, in unprecedented and ever-growing ways.

However daunting, we must tackle these challenges heads on and we must do it now.

How do we go about it? By implementing socially just responses, built on a comprehensive understanding of the natural, social and political systems that small-scale fisheries are entrenched within. For that reason, TBTI has been bringing the notion of ‘Blue Justice’ in the forefront, as a way to call attention to fairness and equity for the most marginalized and vulnerable fishing people.

‘Blue Justice’ acknowledges the historical rights of small-scale fishing communities to marine and inland resources, and coastal space, as traditional users. As a movement, ‘Blue Justice’ seeks to investigate pressures on small-scale fisheries. At its core, it encompasses social justice and human rights principles whilst being intrinsically tied to principles of environmental and climate justice.

Small-Scale Fisheries Values are Global Values

Whether through the terms used to describe them, or the values that are anchored within them, small-scale fisheries have shown their importance for supporting livelihoods globally. By highlighting the diverse values of small-scale fisheries, we can help guide the ocean development agenda in becoming equitable, inclusive, and most importantly, sustainable.

The research done by TBTI, including the publication of more than 300 case studies from 80 countries around the world, show that small-scale fisheries are ‘socially and culturally important.’ But what exactly does this mean? Small-scale fisheries are immensely important for their economic contributions to fishing and coastal communities, contributions that can be expressed as values representing wellbeing and material wealth and livelihood security. TBTI research also show that small-scale fisheries values are global values, in line with ecological goal (ecological conservation) and sustainable development agenda (responsible governing system), which increasingly take into account the societal factors that can contribute to building a more sustainable world (fair distribution of benefits, gender equality, community cohesion).

What are the Contributions of Small-Scale Fisheries?

The majority of small-scale fisheries are governed through centralized mechanisms that limit local capacity for building strong organizations and inhibit their ability to promote environmental stewardship. Putting the power back in the hands of small-scale fishing people, which can happen through participatory governance and devolution of power, will enable them not only to continue to food security and poverty alleviation on their own terms, and in ways that align with their own values.

Small-scale fisheries, if appropriately supported and adequately invested, can aid in achieving real sustainable development. Small-scale fisheries can deliver what the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim at, by contributing to no poverty (SDG1), zero hunger (SDG2), good health and wellbeing (SDG3), gender equality (SDG5), decent work and economic growth (SDG8), reduced inequalities (SDG10), life below water (SDG14), and peace and justice (SDG16). Ultimately, the vision for “healthy, viable and strong small-scale fisheries” needs to be integrated in the new narrative for the global fisheries sustainability.

So what about Blue Justice?

As the Our Common Future (Brundtland Commission 1987) report stated over 30 years ago, “the relative neglect of economic and social justice within and amongst nations” hampers the ability to promote a common interest in sustainable development. Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries therefore calls for the rights, values and contributions of small-scale fisheries to ensure that ocean development is not only sustainable, but also inclusive, equitable, and just.

Since small-scale fisheries face several types of justice, be they procedural, distributive, environmental, or social, it is essential that their rights and their aspirations be properly considered in the formation and execution of the Blue Economy/Blue Growth initiatives.

To see what kind of justice issues small-scale fishing people face, TBTI has started collecting stories from around the word. Several of these stories are being highlighted below and the rest will be compiled in an e-book, which will be published under the TBTI Global Book Series, to be released at the UN Ocean Conference in June 2020.

Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries - case studies

Small-scale fisheries in Sisal, Mexico

Municipal Fishers in the Taklong National Marine Reserve, Philippines

Conflicts in small-scale fisheries in Saint Martin’s Island, Bangladesh

Kinme Boss Facing Double Trouble, Shizuoka, Japan

BLUE JUSTICE

Small-Scale Fisheries are Too Important to Fail!

Say yes to Blue Justice. Commit today.

Social justice is a key concern of fisheries governance since many stakeholders rely on the same resources. Large-scale, industrialized fisheries, for instance, exploit fisheries resources for commercial purposes and trade, while for small-scale fisheries, these resources are their main sources of livelihoods, community wellbeing and food security. Fisheries management is mostly targeted at the former, with favorable policies and subsidies that provide support for their expansion and development. Small-scale fisheries, on the other hand, are bigger in number and in their contribution to the society, but receive much less support. The imbalance in fisheries policies and governance creates unfair competition between the sectors, further marginalizing small-scale fisheries and those who depend on them for their wellbeing. The focus on a “Blue Economy” in many new initiatives raises questions about whether it will add to this imbalance or help to correct it.

At the 3rd World Small-Scale Fisheries Congress held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in October this year, the concept “Blue Justice” was presented and discussed, urging all involved actors to critically examine what “Blue Economy” and “Blue Growth” initiatives mean to small-scale fisheries and their communities, in terms of distributive justice, community empowerment, human rights, food and nutritional security, gender equity, and sustainability.

In this spirit, we invite you to make commitment to “Blue Justice” and share your thought and story on the topic. Here are a few things that you can do.

(1) Take video of yourself, saying how you are committed to “Blue Justice” (see trailer). We’ll collate all the submission and make it into a video that will be used for the campaign. You can just send your signature in lieu of the video. The videos can be sent via We Transfer link (insert the [email protected] as the recipient email).

(2) Send us stories and experiences that you and the small-scale fisheries communities you work with have on social justice concerns and issues. You can send your story to [email protected] If you have any photos accompanying your story, please send them via We Transfer link (insert the [email protected] as the recipient email).

Your stories on Blue Justice

Blue justice in the Swedish Baltic Sea

Contributor: Milena Arias Schreiber

In Baltic Sea of Sweden, coastal traditional fishermen who had been fishing this sea for centuries are vanishing. Some fishermen had agreed to stop fishing but hundreds of others have been practically forced to sell their boats and fishing quotas to larger industrial fishing companies. This is a result of fisheries policies that do not consider the multiple contributions of coastal fisheries to coastal communities and their wellbeing but concentrate solely in maximizing economic profits and growth. As a social scientist, Blue justice in the Baltic Sea means for me, giving back to coastal fishermen their right to decide upon their future and the allocation of fishing resources. Isn’t it more just to have hundreds of small boats fishing in the Baltic Sea – as it used to be one century ago – rather than a handful of huge trawlers catching and profiting as much as all the small boats together?

Blue justice for women in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Contributor: Eva Coronado

In Baltic Sea of Sweden, coastal traditional fishermen who had been fishing this sea for centuries are vanishing. Some fishermen had agreed to stop fishing but hundreds of others have been practically forced to sell their boats and fishing quotas to larger industrial fishing companies. This is a result of fisheries policies that do not consider the multiple contributions of coastal fisheries to coastal communities and their wellbeing but concentrate solely in maximizing economic profits and growth. As a social scientist, Blue justice in the Baltic Sea means for me, giving back to coastal fishermen their right to decide upon their future and the allocation of fishing resources. Isn’t it more just to have hundreds of small boats fishing in the Baltic Sea – as it used to be one century ago – rather than a handful of huge trawlers catching and profiting as much as all the small boats together?

Grito de Pesca Artesanal

In today’s Brazil, struggling with so many political issues pushing hard against human rights and well-being, sharing so many messages and actions supporting the World Fisheries day means a “rest in madness”, and a break to reflect mainstreaming social justice. Joining forces from Brazil, on every November 22nd, from more than 10 years now, small-scale fisheries Brazilian organizations and networks raise their voices for artisanal fisheries as part of what is called “Grito da Pesca Artesanal” (Artisanal Fishery’s Scream), against all kind of rights losses and democracy repression, and “against the lashes of yesterday, today and forever! – contra as chibatas de ontem, de hoje e de sempre!” A call to induce fishing policies to every fishers and fishing communities, and claim for equal opportunities in a blue justice economy, and society.

Gender in Fisheries Team (GIFT)

was promoted at the Institute of Gender and Development Studies’ (IGDS) Biennial Conference Maria Pena

In Baltic Sea of Sweden, coastal traditional fishermen who had been fishing this sea for centuries are vanishing. Some fishermen had agreed to stop fishing but hundreds of others have been practically forced to sell their boats and fishing quotas to larger industrial fishing companies. This is a result of fisheries policies that do not consider the multiple contributions of coastal fisheries to coastal communities and their wellbeing but concentrate solely in maximizing economic profits and growth. As a social scientist, Blue justice in the Baltic Sea means for me, giving back to coastal fishermen their right to decide upon their future and the allocation of fishing resources. Isn’t it more just to have hundreds of small boats fishing in the Baltic Sea – as it used to be one century ago – rather than a handful of huge trawlers catching and profiting as much as all the small boats together?

TBTI commitment to Blue Justice

'Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries' Commitment

TBTI has been promoting the notion of ‘Blue Justice’ through various platforms. One of our most prominent efforts was the registration of Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries as a voluntary commitment to the Ocean Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14). Our pledge joins more than 1,400 other voluntary commitments to save our oceans, all registered on a UN platform.

The commitment, which is part of our ongoing ‘Blue Justice’ campaign, calls attention to the current discourse about Blue Growth/Blue Economy, which poses potential risks to the rights of small-scale fisheries to the fishing livelihoods, which include access to fisheries resources, to coastal and ocean space, and to local, national and international markets. The campaign is urging for the social justice of small-scale fisheries be recognized not only as a basic right, but also an important condition for the realization of the UN Sustainable Goals and implementation of the SSF Guidelines. 

Register for the UN Ocean Conference

Planning is under way for the next United Nations Ocean Conference, which will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, in June 2020. The conference theme is “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions”. Registration for non-accredited organizations is now opened for those who wish to participate in the conference.

The first round of conference registration is open from 15 September – 15 November 2019. Application must be make through the conference website.

Find out more

About the topic of Blue Justice

Special seminar held on ‘Blue Justice’ for SSF in Cape Town on Jan 25

On January 25, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of Western Cape, in partnership with TBTI, organized a special seminar as a way to encourage discussion about the concept of ‘Blue Justice’ in relation to small-scale fisheries. The seminar also emphasized the need to connect the key international instruments such as the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, the Governance of Tenure, and the Right to Food Guidelines, to meaningfully engage with local small-scale fishing communities, in order to secure access, food and livelihoods.

The seminar began with presentations by the following TBTI members. It was chaired, and the discussion moderated, by Naseegh Jaffer, of Masifundise, TBTI partner based in South Africa.

  • Prof Ratana Chuenpagdee, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
    “Building transdisciplinary capacity for Blue Justice”

  • Prof Svein Jentoft, UiT- The Arctic University of Norway, Norway
    “Situating human rights principles in the Blue Economy”

  • Prof Moenieba Isaacs, PLAAS, University of the Western Cape
    “Three narratives driving the Blue Economy agenda”

In November 2018, Kenya hosted the Blue Growth Conference on the continent to promote the blue economy, blue bonds, and blue investments as the next development strategy for African nations. A key link to the blue growth agenda is the sustainability of the oceans through adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Key questions in this seminar were:

  • To what extent are blue growth initiatives challenging the existing social structures, power relations, access rights, and rights of small-scale fisheries engaging in livelihoods activities in the same ocean space?
  • To what extent are small-scale fishers part of the debates, discussions and decisions when their fishing grounds are under threat?
  • More importantly, who benefits from the blue growth agenda?

PLAAS in partnership with Too Big To Ignore invited debates and discussions about the concept of Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries, making it part of the ‘constructive’ agenda for small-scale fisheries, particularly in light of the envisaged International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022.

‘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.

Madu discussing the key points and posing questions. Photo credit: Derek Armitage

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.

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.