Go to any fish market in the world and you won’t have to look far before you find seafood from the intertidal zone, whether it be shellfish, sea vegetables and any number of species of small fish. Likewise, if you sit down to the dinner table in any fishing community there’s a good chance you will find the some kind of intertidal seafood being served. Intertidal zones also provide an essential source of food and most marginal and vulnerable.

In spite of its scale and importance to poverty reduction, food security and sustainable livelihoods, intertidal small-scale fisheries are often neglected in national fisheries and human development policies. Yet these harvesters are so numerous in some countries and regions that they out-number larger vessel based fisheries

The men and women who participate is small-scale intertidal fisheries are engaged in an amazing variety of harvesting activities- digging, raking, netting fishing from skiffs, standing on platforms platform,’ and more- in highly diverse ecological social and economic context. The challenges are also diverse and complex. These include all the challenges faced by small-scale fisheries globally. In addition, there are challenges that are unique to the intertidal fisheries: water quality, access, land privatization, competing economic uses and a range of other problems. These problems are particularly acute for the vulnerable and marginal populations that make up the majority in many intertidal fisheries.

At the same time, intertidal small-scale fisheries around the world are finding solutions at the grassroots level, solutions based on local innovation and participatory action, such habitat restoration, water quality improvement, local governance, niche marketing and artisanal aquaculture. The purpose of this learning circle is to begin to provide a way for intertidal small-scale fisher people to share stories, strategies and insights in order to provide mutual support and to stimulate grassroots problem solving. It will also provide a mean of identifying common issues and challenges, and to pose research questions that relate to intertidal small-scale fisheries.

The first conversation of this learning circle included perspectives from a shellfish harvester organization in northern Spain, a clam diggers association in Nova Scotia Canada, an intertidal group in Wadden Sea in the Netherlands and Indigenous communities in Ecuador and on east and west coast of Canada. As well as sharing stories about their fisheries and the challenges hey face, the group identified a number of themes that are common to intertidal fisheries, including problems relating to

  • privatization of the intertidal areas that gives exclusive access to intertidal zones to private interests
  • the protected areas that limit access to small-scale harvester and gatherers
  • environmental NGOs and protection of endangered species
  • government policies that do not not differentiate between the artisanal intertidal fisheries and the large vessel-based industrial fisheries.
  • downloading of monitoring on the small scale fishery
  • lack of consultation with indigenous people in Canada, in particular
  • pollution of intertidal zones
  • being caught between extremes of environmental protection and privatization
  • being classified as aquaculture

A number of common strategies were also identified

  • taking legal challenges forward
  • building alliances and solidarity at every level, including international
  • raising public awareness about the situation and importance of intertidal fisheries
  • innovative marketing strategies
  • challenge the government policy, through protest or other kind of policy intervention
  • renewing the resource through habitat restoration and re-seeding shellfish stocks

A complete transcript of the discussion is available ay [link] A paper summarizing stories, issues and strategies is available at [link] A resource list on small-scale intertidal fisheries is available at [link]