LEARNING CIRCLE ON PRIVATIZATION AND SMALL-SCALE FISHERIES

Ask any group of small-scale fisher people from around the world what their biggest challenges are, and you will usually find privatization near the top of the list. Most commonly they will be speaking about the effect of private property policy regimes such as Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs), a fisheries management system that has resulted in loss of access for small-scale fisheries communities, intensive concentration of ownership of quota and licences and a host of other problems like highgrading and discarding. As devastating as ITQ policies have been, they are not the only form of privatization that has negatively impacted small-scale fisheries. Other kinds of privatization of shorelines, riverbanks and beaches, and of the oceans themselves also pose serious threats to local community-based fisheries. Increasingly, access to marine ecosystems, that small-scale fisheries have held from time immemorial through traditional and customary tenure systems, is being cut off by the establishment of private property-based systems which give exclusive access to interests like recreational fisheries and tourism, and shipping, industrial aquaculture and industrial natural resource extraction. These forms of privatization are part of a rising tide of neoliberal fisheries and marine policies that are undermining coastal communities worldwide.

The purpose of this learning circle is to provide a means for small-scale fisheries organizations to share stories and strategies about how privatization is impacting them. It also provides a forum for posing research questions about ocean privatization and its effect on small-scale fisheries. This might include questions such as: • How is privatization impacting small-scale fisheries at local and regional level? • What kinds of strategies for resisting privatization are being employed at local and regional levels? • What is driving privatization at the global level? • How can small-scale fisheries organizations work together to resist privatization?

The group that initiated this learning circle brought diverse perspectives on these issues into wide-ranging conversation, with participants from South Africa, Ecuador, Honduras and Canada (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous). Example of privatization discussed in the group included: • ITQs (Canada, South Africa, Honduras) • Recreation/sport fisheries (Canada- West Coast) • Industrial prawn aquaculture (Ecuador) • Industrial resource extraction – (Ecuador) • Leasing of clam beaches (Canada – east coast)

It was also an opportunity to learn about, and contribute, to a major report on ocean privatization by Masifundise from South Africa, supported by Africa Contact and the Transnational Institute, that will look the growth of ocean privatization, or ‘ocean grabbing’. This study is also looking the global context for ocean privatization-what is driving it- especially the Global Partnership for Oceans which is linked to the World Bank.

Since it began in the fall of 2013, this learning circle has developed from an informal sharing format to a more focused workshop format. In the first four Skype session, participants shared narratives about how privatization has affected there communities, and how they have respond to this challenge. A summary of these conversations, and the common issues and themes that emerged from them, is available here…

The group then decided to adopt a more thematically focussed approach, more like a workshop, with each session beginning with a presentation on a particular theme relating to privatization and small-scale fisheries. These themes related more to the issues relating to privatization on the global, rater than local, level. To date, three of these workshop have been held on the flowing topics: