Laying Foundations for Small-Scale Fisheries Management: Taking a Step Back to Move Forward
Ecosystem approaches are increasingly mainstreamed in contemporary debate on small-scale fisheries management, however many small-scale fisheries lack solid institutional and scientific foundations on which to build such holistic and inherently more complex management systems. Most small-scale fisheries still operate with little or no effective management. Proponents of ecosystem approaches frequently malign single-species management models that placed less emphasis on wider ecosystem effects. However these 'simpler' approaches are responsible for significant management successes, even in contexts where fisheries were not strictly single species. We argue for incremental development of fisheries management more deeply rooted in successful past management systems. At this stage, there appears too little capacity to manage the complexity associated with a complete paradigm overhaul towards ecosystem-based approaches. The multi-dimensional importance of small-scale fisheries is highlighted in the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, where ecosystem approaches are identified to guide holistic, integrated management, and facilitate cross institutional interactions. Its application is nuanced and connected with practical measures to ensure that principles of decency, equity, and responsibility, define management's fabric. We draw from this in problematizing the adoption of ecosystem approaches and examine the implications for small-scale fisheries management. We present six small-scale fisheries case studies; two in Australia where comparatively simple management models were applied, two operating in trans-boundary contexts with Australia and two operating under very different social, political and economic conditions in the wider region of Indonesia. We suggest initial management approaches should primarily strive for better grounding and more realistic targets.