The Learning Circle on Indigenous Small-Scale Fisheries

The struggles of Indigenous small-scale fisher peoples are central to the global movement of small-scale fisheries. Whether for food, ceremony, livelihood or commercial enterprise, Indigenous fisheries share the challenges and issues of all small-scale fisheries. In addition they face all the threats that faced by Indigenous people around the world: loss of customary tenure, colonization, ethnocide, deracination and, in some cases, genocide. At the same, Indigenous small-scale fisher people and their communities are responding to these multiple challenges with a great diversity of grassroots strategies for resistance and innovation, reflecting their great cultural, economic, ecological and political diversity.

The purpose of the Indigenous Small-Scale Learning Circle is to begin to create a way for Indigenous small–scale fisher people to share the stories of their struggles and strategies. It is also a shared space for identifying common issues and actions, and framing research questions.

Another purpose of the learning circle is to link local struggles at the grassroots level with struggles on the global level. This involves exploring ways that international instruments and agreements that support Indigenous can be applied locally, regionally and nationally, These include

  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
  • The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Guidelines on Tenure
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Small-Scale Fisheries

Linking from the global to the local in this way can increase participation of Indigenous small-scale fisher people in the international processes, and also provide them with support and tools for local struggles.

This learning circle began in January, 2014, with a group that included Indigenous perspectives from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada (east and west coasts) and South Africa. A number of common themes were identified in this conversation, including:

  • Privatization by property-based policies and quota system that result in loss of access and raise issues relating issues with community leadership and company-owned quotas and licenses
  • Displaced by recreational fisheries and aquaculture
  • Policies in which economic values are privileged over human values, including Indigenous cultural and customary values
  • Displacement by marine parks
  • Issues relating to definition of communal and individual fishing right

The group also identified a number of strategies and actions items, including: - Assist in creating awareness from the ground up and among other “stakeholders” (locally, nationally, and internationally). - Post information on website throughout project - Attempt to transcribe conversations and provide the group - Think about other possible participants who we can learn with.

A complete transcript of this workshop is available at [link].

A paper summarizing of themes and issues, as well as profiles of the Indigenous small-scale fisheries that have participated in the learning circle, is available at [link].

In addition, a list of articles, videos and other resource materials, are available at [link]

A summary of the themes and issues that have emerged in this learning circle is available here…

Like all the learning circles, this group more or less followed a four-part cycle that moved from sharing experience, through identifying common issues, through researching related resources and to taking action togther. In its first year, the Indigenous SSF Learning Circle took a number of actions:

  • increased Indigenous participation on the FAO Technical Consultations leading up to the adoption of the Guidelines on Small-Scale Fisheries
  • increased Indigenous participation in the General Assembly of World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP)
  • successfully advocated for a dedicated Indigenous seat on the Coordinating Committee of WFFP
  • Hosted a sharing circle for researchers on Indigenous SSF at the Second Small-Scale Fisheries Assembly in Merida Mexico. Notes for this workshops are available here…
  • This in turn resulting in the creation of a network on Research and Indigenous SSF