Sharing Article

A virtual regional training workshop on sustainable small-scale fisheries (SSF) in South Africa, Ghana, and Namibia

Senia Febrica

One Ocean Hub, University of Strathclyde, UK

Visit website
  • fisheries,
  • fishing,
  • community,
  • coastal communities
Target Group
  • Students,
  • Researchers,
  • Policy makers
  • English
Location map

The workshop aimed to test the use of the Legislative Guide and the draft Law and Policy Diagnostic Tool for Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the One Ocean Hub (OOH) organised a virtual Regional Training Workshop on Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) in South Africa, Ghana, and Namibia on 12th-15th April 2021. The workshop aimed to test the use of the Legislative Guide and the draft Law and Policy Diagnostic Tool for Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, that were produced by FAO to advance the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.

The workshop is an example of the Hub’s intention to contribute to multiple scales of the ocean science-policy interface. On one hand, the workshop sought to contribute to improving the understanding of the relevance of international instruments and international actors that can support the protection of human rights of small-scale fishers at local and national levels. On the other hand, it aimed to enable different stakeholders to influence the development of international tools, such as the FAO’s Law and Policy Diagnostic Tool for Small-Scale Fisheries, that can support the protection of these human rights in different countries and by a variety of actors operating at different scales of ocean decision-making.

On the first day, Ms Lena Westlund (FAO) provided a comprehensive explanation on the development process, scope, guiding principles, thematic areas covered, and the FAO activities to promote the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. She emphasized that while governments have the main responsibility to implement the Guidelines, other stakeholders, including researchers, can contribute to these efforts. Ms Ana Suarez-Dussan (Human Rights Expert, Fisheries Division) presented on the SSF Legislative Guide as well as the structure and main components of SSF legislation. Ms Julia Nakamura (Legal Consultant, Development Law Service) presented on the Policy and Legal Diagnostic Tool, explaining the step-wise assessment and how to use it.

The workshop continued with a series of presentations made by researchers, representatives of government agencies, and small-scale fishers. Hub researchers including Dr Jackie Sunde, University of Cape Town; Professor Joseph Aggrey-Fynn, University of Cape Coast, and Professor Alex Kanyimba, University of Namibia, shared insights on the practical importance of SSF-appropriate legislation, based on legal and social sciences research conducted with small-scale fishing communities in the respective countries over the past two years. Dr Sunde highlighted five key reasons:

  • small-scale fishers should not be invisible or criminalized and their right to human dignity and other human rights should be realized;
  • fisheries authority should be given the legal mandate to take steps to transform the inequalities of the past in the fishing industry and allocate resources to the SSF sector;
  • SSF should be defined so as to include small-scale fishers’ work along the value chain including in households and families, including women’s work;
  • fisheries and marine conservation authorities should respect small-scale fishers’ procedural rights in marine spatial planning and in the designation and management of marine protected areas; and
  • rights to fish arising from communities’ customary law should be recognized.

Professor Aggrey-Fynn drew our attention to a range of problems related to SSF in Ghana such as: declining fisheries resources; illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and fuel subsidies. He noted that appropriate SSF legislation is needed to achieve the following:

  • reduction of excessive pressure on fish stocks;
  • the protection of marine habitats and biodiversity;
  • the enhancement of export opportunities and value addition; and
  • the improvement of participatory decision making in fisheries management.

Professor Kanyimba began his presentation by explaining the history of Topnaars, the traditional SSF community in Namibia, and the impacts of colonialism on marine resource management. His presentation underscored the pressing need to:

  • realign policies and establish a more responsive regulatory framework to Namibian SSF conditions;
  • address problems posed by political coercion in decision making and policy development; and
  • provide access for small-scale fishers to decision making.

Representatives of governments including Mr Abongile Ngqongwa, Fisheries Resource Management, South Africa; Mrs Serwah Johnson-Abassah, the Attorney-General Office, Ghana; and Mr Johannes Hamukwaya, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Namibia, gave their overview on policy and legal frameworks in their respective countries. Mr Ngqongqwa underscored innovative tools such as the Abalobi App that can connect fishers to retailers and support safety at sea. Mrs Johnson-Abassah recommended that effective law enforcement would require intensive training and sufficient allocation of resources to police and judges. Mr Hamukwaya updated participants on the development of a national plan of action to implement the SSF Guidelines.

A representative of small-scale fishers from South Africa, Ms Hilda Adams shared, via a recorded audio message, a reflection on the importance of appropriate and properly implemented SSF legislation to enable small-scale fishers to contribute even more to food security, empower themselves, as well as eliminate unemployment and other social ills. Mr Pedro Garcia, a representative of small-scale fishers in South Africa, emphasized the need to involve directly and from early planning stages small-scale fishers in any consultations or discussion concerning their lives and livelihoods. Mr Glenn Kasper, a representative of the Topnaar community in Namibia, illustrated the continuous linkages between his people and the ocean, and their customary rules about fishing. Mr Mike Abaka-Edu, a representative of small-scale fishers from Ghana, contributed a video-message shedding light on the important role of tenure and access rights in the SSF legislation. He noted that although by law preferential access rights have been implemented in Ghana, at practical level small-scale fishers are still facing challenges arising from commercial fishers operating in areas reserved for SSF.

Participants then engaged in three exercises based on the draft Diagnostic Tool: first they assessed the implementation of key requirements of the SSF Guidelines in national fisheries policy and law, following a contextualization for each country based on Hub research. Second, they assessed the coherence between national fisheries policy and law with other policy areas identified in the SSF Guidelines, such as human rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, gender equality, and education. The exercise was meant to understand if any perceived gaps in fisheries law and policy should be considered in the light of other relevant laws and policies in other sectors. Third, participants discussed whether the international environmental and human rights law instruments to which each country is a party provide specific indications on how to address the gaps and shortcomings identified in the previous exercises focused on national policy and law. Participants discussed whether there are implementation activities in place for international instruments that are relevant for the SSF sector, and related practical experiences, issues and lessons learnt.

As a result of the workshop, Hub researchers and other participants have provided feedback and inputs into the draft Diagnostic Tool, while they have identified specific legal and policy issues that will be further explored at the country level.