Through its commitment to addressing extreme poverty, USAID is integrating a deeper understanding of the role marine tenure and small-scale fisheries play in supporting biodiversity conservation, food security, inclusive economic growth, and other priority development objectives. Maintaining healthy and resilient marine and coastal ecosystems provides the natural capital to support USAID’s objective to conserve biodiversity for sustainable, resilient development. Insecure resource tenure rights to fisheries can be one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss and unsustainable natural resource management. Where rights are poorly defined, marine and freshwater ecosystems can be quickly degraded, leading to overfishing. Securing resource tenure for fishers can set the stage for reducing pressures to biodiversity, creating sustainable livelihoods, enhancing food and nutrition security, building resilience, and reducing competition over limited resources.
Small-scale fishers play a significant role in the global fisheries sector. They represent about 90 percent of the world’s nearly 51 million capture fishers, of whom about half are women. They produce half of all global fish catch and supply two-thirds of the fish consumed by people. Small-scale fishers and coastal communities with secure rights over a given fishery, fishing ground, or territory have a strong interest in organizing and acting collectively to manage their resources sustainably. Securing tenure and strengthening governance of small-scale fisheries can have multiple development benefits. The following information brief provides an overview on the topic of marine tenure in securing sustainable small-scale fisheries and its role in meeting global development objectives. The USAID/E3 Office of Land and Urban’s Tenure and Global Climate Change Program has developed a sourcebook and guidance designed to assist USAID staff and partners integrate consideration of sustainable small-scale fisheries and the responsible governance of marine tenure in programming and project design.
WHY LOOK TO THE RESPONSIBLE GOVERNANCE OF MARINE TENURE TO SUPPORT USAID DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES?
Weak or inadequate governance of tenure within fishing communities and the marine and coastal environment has resulted in a substantial loss of food security, local income generation, biodiversity, and ecosystem services such as coastal protection. Coastal communities have long depended on the sea for food, shelter, livelihood, cultural practices, and other basic human requirements. These communities represent a highly vulnerable segment of society, who often lack secure land and marine tenure, are exposed to a range of coastal hazards, and are relatively invisible in terms of development priorities. The responsible governance of marine tenure supports the establishment of a set of rights and responsibilities for local communities as to who is allowed to use which resources, in what way, for how long, and under what conditions, as well as who is entitled to transfer rights to others and how. Formal recognition of marine tenure provides communities with the security that they can invest in and manage their fishery resources for long-term sustainability. A community’s secure right to make management decisions on resources within the coastal zone is crucial to building their resilience to the impacts of climate change.
HOW DOES MARINE TENURE SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE SMALL-SCALE FISHERIES?
Small-scale fishers and coastal communities with secure rights over a given fishery, fishing ground, or territory have a stronger interest in organizing and acting collectively to manage their resources sustainably. Marine tenure institutions and tenure rights form the overarching governance structure that enables a fishing group or community to establish rights to use resources from a defined territory as well as exclude outsiders. Secure tenure promotes stewardship of natural assets such as fish and creates incentives to maintain ecosystem goods and services. As such, the responsible governance of marine tenure forms a central component of this new small-scale fishery agenda, contributing to multiple development objectives including alleviating poverty, building resilience, strengthening food security, promoting gender equity, and conserving biodiversity.
WHY IDENTIFY LESSONS FOR DEVELOPING AND STRENGTHENING EFFECTIVE MARINE TENURE INSTITUTIONS AMONG SMALL-SCALE FISHING COMMUNITIES?
Working in a marine and coastal environment requires an adaptive approach based on up-to-date knowledge of dynamic ecological and social conditions. Local fisheries management institutions and approaches in the context of developing nations often include complex and diverse social, cultural, political, economic, and ecological arrangements and conditions. The consideration of these integrated factors is a key component of using a marine tenure approach when addressing and assessing marine and coastal-related issues. Ultimately, this understanding of the interconnected web of relations between people, institutions and resources implicit in marine tenure institutions can provide lessons on how they can be strengthened in the face of new challenges such as climate change and economic globalization towards the advancement of more resilient societies.