August 17, 2020

Prepared by: Andrew Tsai,
Graduate student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

Before being hired as a temporary research assistant with TBTI Global in May, 2020, I have never heard of terms such as “small-scale fisheries” (SSF) or “blue justice.” By the end of the contract, I am now convinced that SSF are as important as racial and gender equality. We often hear people advocating for the rights of minority racial and gender groups, but the rights of small-scale fishers seem to slip under the radar. This sort of neglect has to change. Small-scale fishers are part of our society, and they need protection, just like other minority groups.

Large industrial fishing companies have been a threat to the survival of artisanal fishers in ways that are more serious than in other types of industries. When we think about locally owned restaurants being out-competed by restaurant franchises, we do not usually suppose that the shutting down of the former has to do with their failure to procure food ingredients they need. But when it comes to fisheries, fish stock is limited resource. Large fishing companies can employ their well-equipped fleets to make large catches, effectively reducing the overall fish stock, thus making it harder for artisanal fishers to make their catches. As a result, artisanal fishers’ livelihoods are endangered while managers of some fishing corporations continue amassing wealth. This is not a fair game, and we should be aware of it. That is why the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals contain clause SDG 14b: Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.

I am a sushi fan. A dish of sushi containing a variety of fishes delights my heart as well as my stomach. Personally speaking, I would be disappointed to see a reduction of sushi choices on the restaurant menu because certain fish stocks are depleted. I would certainly not want to see my children or my children’s children unable to taste these delicacies because my generation destroyed them all either by pollution or overfishing. We know about pollution because schools, governments and NGOs all talk about it. As decent citizens of the globe, we do our part by engaging in recycling and conservative use of power, etc. We also know about the consequences of overfishing. But besides asking the governments to make rules on the limit of catch, what else can we do? One thing everyone can do is to buy seafood from local fishers instead of international fishing corporations. Studies have shown that SSF holds one of the keys to sustainable fishing. Artisanal fishers can catch only limited amount of fish, but it is very hard to stop industrial fishing companies from lobbying the authorities to ease restrictions so they can make as many catches as they want. Still, with more people becoming aware and actively monitoring the situation, the less likely these commercial corporations dare to act out of bounds.

When well protected and regulated, SSF can feed many fishers and their families, ensuring their economic wellbeing, which in turn enhances the society’s stability. Hence, even if we do not know any friends or relatives who fish for a living, the positive impacts of flourishing SSF still benefit all of us.