The Relevance and Applicability of FSRE Methods to Fisheries
Research and Development
Kevin Veach 4-09-95
Fisheries development projects have often been planned and carried out in a centralized, top-down fashion like many kinds of development projects. Technical interventions have been planned with little knowledge of the local conditions and especially without awareness of local fishers' needs and the socio-cultural factors that affect the fisheries. This approach has often resulted in the promotion of industrialization of fisheries leading to subsequent overfishing and conflicts over remaining resources between small-scale and industrial fishers.
The use of Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSRE) methods offers the
possibility of a better understanding of the social context of a fishery, the fishers' needs and greater opportunity for incorporating the fishers' knowledge into site-specific solutions, but will have to overcome several challenges of working with fisheries due to the greater social complexity of fisheries and the nature of the resource base.
FSRE is a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and solving the problems of small-scale, resource-poor farmers. This approach grew out of the realization that Green Revolution techniques with their emphasis on hybrid varieties, high input requirements, centralized research and idealized research station conditions were overlooking the needs of resource-poor farmers in favor of the more advantaged farmers. In contrast, FSRE has focused on the needs of small-scale farmers by evolving research and extension methods that respond to the social and environmental diversity of small farms. The typical isolation of the researcher from the farmer and from the extension worker is overcome by use of the "sondeo" process (ildebrand, 1981), in which multidisciplinary teams of social science and agriculture specialists conduct on-farm visits with the farmers to understand their farming systems, resources, constraints, needs and priorities, and to devise on-farm trials with them that can lead to site-specific solutions. One integrating aspect of this
process is that it considers the farm first and foremost as a household livelihood system composed of many interdependent subsystems, in contrast to considering the farm as simply a profit-making business (Poats, et al., 1986).
The purpose of this paper is to examine the relevance and applicability of an FSRE approach for research and development for small-scale or artisan level fisheries. Much like the Green Revolution, fisheries development policy has stressed industrialization of fisheries and centralized research focused on technology or fish and has tended to benefit only the wealthier fishers. While the approach of FSRE has much to offer to improve the well-being of fishers, it will face several major challenges in adapting itself to the unique conditions of fisheries.
HI. THIE NATURE OF SMALL-SCALE FISHERIES
In fisheries, as in farming, defining "small scale" is a difficult task and the same scale of fishing operation might be classified differently in different countries. Several of the criteria developed by Charles (1991) point out the similarity to the nature of small farms. According to Charles (199 1): 1) the fishery is an integral part of the community where the fihers live; 2) the fishers are highly dependent on the fishery and have few other opportunities; 3) vessels are relatively small and individually owned; 4) the fishing operation relies more on labor than on capital; 5) net incomes are generally low; and 6) the techniques may be viewed as traditional or technologically backward by some. Like smallscale farming, these small-scale fisheries are enormously important, employing nearly 90% of the world's fishers and providing about half of the edible catch (Berkes, 1986).
The social and subsistence aspects of the fishery are especially important. Fishing is often done by kin groups and is often part-time with fishers relying on supplemental income. The majority of fishers do not own vessels and many do not own gear but work for wages or a share of the catch (Smith, 1979). Part or all of the catch may go towards family consumption. Small-scale fishers generally have low incomes compared to the
average in their countries (Smith, 1979) and are often marginalized both geographically and socially (Cordell, 1986; Smith, 1979). This marginality grants fishers a large measure of independence and can serve as a screen to allow them to avoid government regulation (Cordell, 1986). In many places, informal systems of local sea tenure determine access to the resource, but conficts among local groups and between local groups and outsiders are common. Thus, understanding local tenure and social systems is fundamental to understanding small-scale fisheries.
These social aspects of small-scale fisheries are significantly determined by the nature of the fisheries resource itself Small-fishers usually exploit the shallower nearshore areas that have higher biomass and that they can access with their gear and small boats (Lampe, 199 1). The extreme variability of the catch from area to area and from season to season demands great flexibility from the fishers changing fishing gear or locations or even shifting to land-based activities when the catch per unit effort is too low (Lampe, 1991). In addition, some fishers will migrate to exploit migratory species. This diversity of environments and strategies exists both between and within countries (Aguero, 1991).
IIl. FAILURES OF TRADITONAL APPROACHES TO FISHERIES RESEARCH ANDI DEVELOPMENT
While fisheries management in developing countries has often included the
objective of improving the well-being of small-scale fishers, this objective has frequently lost out to objectives such as maximizing national fisheries earnings or modernizing the fishing fleet. The actual implementation of traditional fisheries research and development has been of limited benefit to most small-scale fishers. In this sense, the history of fisheries research and development clearly mirrors several of the problems of traditional agricultural research to which FSRE was a response.
As with past agricultural research and development, fisheries development has been almost exclusively directed in a centralized fashion by national institutes with little regional flexibility. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the research has focused on the production technology or the fish, but, until recently, there has been very little investigation of the social aspects of fisheries in developing countries (Aguero, 199 1; Lampe, 199 1; Smith, 1979). This is especially true for the issues of fishers! culture and sea tenure or sea rights (Cordell, 1986; Lampe, 1991). Despite the recent increase in studies of the social aspects of fisheries, the information about small-scale fisheries in South America, for example, is still "fragmentary" or "non-existing" because of the priority on researching industrial fisheries (Aguero, 199 1). Where the social issues and needs of fishers have been acknowledged, the general prescription has been to form cooperatives, even though they were shown early on to be highly failure-prone, often because they conflicted with the existing social structures (Poilnac, 1981; Smith, 1979).
In general, the goal has been to modernize and industrialize the fishing industry. This focus carried several consequences. Only the wealthier boat owners were able to receive subsidized loans and thus modernize their equipment. Modem equipment is more capital intensive, leading to increased unemployment among fishers. When cooperatives were formed to give the poorer fishers access to credit and modem equipment, frequent coop failure often left fishers poorer than before (Poinac, 1981; Smith, 1979). Industrialization of the fishing fleets thus meant less employment for fishers and increasing stratification between boat owners and fishers (Cordell, 1986; Smith, 1979).
In addition, a frequent overcapitalization of the industrial off-shore fleet led to
severe overfishing of the pelagic species, forcing the industrial boats to fish in the inshore waters in conflict with the small-scale fishers and often rapidly depleting the fish stocks (Cordell, 1986; Smith, 1979). Because local sea-tenure systems were barely recognized, much less legally protected, increasing conflicts developed in many countries between
industrial and small-scale fishers (Berkes and Kislalioglu, 1991; Cordell, 1986; Ghai and Vivian, 1992; Johannes, 1978; Quinn and Kolis, 1991).
Finally, it has been this conflict with the more powerful, industrialized fleet,
controlled by outsiders, which has led to the degeneration of the local sea-tenure systems in many places (Cordell, 1986; Johannes, 1978). Such traditional tenure systems function well with local residents who are subject to community norms but break down in the face of outsiders who can simply move on after depleting the resource (Cordell, 1986).
IV. NEED FOR AN FSRE-STYLE APPROACH TO FISHERIES RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
The problems mentioned above clearly point to the need for an approach to fisheries research and development that, like FSRE, focuses on complex livelihood systems and is multidisciplinary and context sensitive. First, due to the increase in both coastal population and the rural landless population, small-scale fishing is increasing in many countries (Smith, 1979). There is an urgent need to consider livelihood alternatives for these people. In order to address their needs as a livelihood system, the social and consumption aspects of fisheries as well as the biological and production aspects need to be investigated. For example, due to overfishing, many full-time fishers become part time in many areas. These fishers' livelihood systems are a complex combination of economic activities, which often include fishing, hunting, farming, artisanry, shellfish gathering and other activities. Thus, the FSRE understanding of small-scale farms as complex systems of interdependent social and economic activities is necessary to understand small-scale fisheries also.
Like small farmers, traditional small-scale fishers are reluctant to try innovations with potentially high gains but with high levels of risk that may threaten their subsistence. Therefore, potential solutions must be assessed within the context of risk of failure as is done with adaptability in the FSRE context.
Local cultural conditions must be understood, because solutions that do not fit the cultural context will be ignored. For example, many coops failed because they could not provide the same flexibility and security to the fishers as did traditional relations with local middlemen (Smith, 1979). Cultural context is especially important with respect to gender division of labor. For example, in many locations the men fish while the women market the catch or harvest shellfish from near-shore or reef areas, the site-specific and humancentered focus of the "sondeo" is appropriate for collecting this kind of information.
Studies from around the world have shown that many traditional fisheries systems have managed the resource well and for the benefit of the local people (Berkes, 1986; Cordell, 1986; Johannes, 1798; McCay, et al., 1987; Ruddle, 1988). Traditional fishers often have detailed knowledge of sea conditions and fish behaviors (Johannes, 1981). As Chambers (199 1) points out, where increasing population puts more pressure on natural resources, small-scale farming systems become more complex, and the management becomes more intensive. He further states, "As solutions become more complexly linked to other farm activities and become recognized as more location specific, the need for using farmers' knowledge increases" (Chambers, 1991). The FSRE participatory, on-site approach to diagnosis and solution generation is thus of extreme relevance to small-scale fisheries development.
In the past, the technological, biological, and social issues facing small-scale fisheries were treated as if they were separate and were researched only within their disciplines (Smith, 1979). Increasingly, many fisheries experts are recognizing the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the problems of small-scale fisheries. As Agnero (1991, p. 233) states, "In Latin America as in other regions, small-scale fisheries research encompasses a wide variety of issues, disciplines and problems. Research on the complexities of fisheries and their natural environment requires the concurrence of several disciplinary approaches. Moreover, it is well recognized now that this concurrence of various disciplines should ideally be simultaneous or inter- disciplinary." The
multidisciplinary approach of FSRE to all phases of rural research and development work would be well matched to these needs.
Finally, the environmental and cultural diversity of small-scale fisheries calls for the kind of flexible and site-specific approach that is integral to FSRE methods. Since fish species and their behaviors change from location to location and from season to season, no generalized solution, even to the problem ofjust catching fish, will work everywhere. When the variability of livelihood strategies is also acknowledged, it becomes clear that solutions to the interdependent problems of small-scale fisheries must be considered with a very site-specific perspective.
V. CHALLENGES IN ADAPTING AN FSRE APPROACH TO SMALL-SCALE
Adapting FSRE to fisheries will face several challenges related to the complexity of the resource base and the social organization of fishers. These challenges will affect all phases of the FSRE process, from description and diagnosis of problems to dissemination of solutions. One major difference between fisheries and farming systems is that the fishing areas are not controlled or worked by households but rather by larger social groups such as kin groups or communities. This will require FSRE to shift from its traditional household focus to include collective decision-making and policy.
As mentioned above, this social analysis will require examination of local seatenure systems, intercommunity conflicts, cultural and ethnic factors and gender division of labor. This greater need to address issues at the community level poses one of the major challenges to extending an FSRE approach to fisheries. This is because FSRE has typically been confined to decisions at the individual farm level, due to the constraints of the institutions within which FSRE practitioners work (Bottrall and John, 1992). However, as pointed out by Bottrall and John (1992), solutions in common-property contexts such as group-managed fisheries will require FSRE to add new research techniques to its
repertoire and carry out "action research" jointly with other agencies involved in community organization.
Likewise, FSRE must expand its scope to address the policy level. Small-scale fisheries exist in a political context that favors industrial fisheries and often harms smallscale inshore fisheries. Where traditional forms of sea tenure exist, they can form the basis for limiting access to the inshore fisheries resource to enhance the security of local fishers. An FSRE approach should work with these local systems, but as shown above, would still need to address the policy level to assure legal protection for such systems of local management.
While the small farm may frequently be mainly a subsistence system with only a
small portion of its products going to the market, fishing livelihoods usually depend on the market and market linkages. Thlis requires an expansion of the typical FSRE approach to include various marketing mechanisms and technologies within its recommendation domains.
The nature of the fisheries resource base also poses great challenges to a typical FSRE approach. The natural resources of small farms, while quite varied, are generally stable, and the same solution may be applied over time to the same piece of land. However, the sea conditions are in constant flux, and fish migrate and change behavior in response to these changes. This, in turn, means fishers must move and change strategies as well. FSRE recommendations will have to be more complex and more responsive to change to deal with the increased spatial and temporal complexity and uncertainty of fishing as compared to farming.
However, investigation of the appropriate technologies and calculation of yields
for fisheries is ftmdamentally different than for farming. Calculating crop yields is relatively straightforward while accurate inventories of fish species is all but impossible, and most attempts to achieve maximum sustainable yields (MSY) without overharvesting have been notorious failures. While research can gauge soil nutrients, erosion, and crop yields over
time as indicators of sustainability, experience has shown that it is not possible to know the precise level of maximum sustainable yield in fisheries until that level has been greatly exceeded, at which point it becomes extremely difficult to return to sustainable levels. Therefore, FSRE must develop techniques for making recommendations in much lower levels of certainty.
Because fisheries (unlike farms) can not add inputs of seed or fertilizer to increase yield (with few exceptions), fishers rely on the inputs of gear and knowledge to increase production. The biological, technological and social research challenges become developing the knowledge of fish populations and behavior, as well as the gear and the social arrangements to harvest the resource at a sustainable level.
Many coastal fisheries of the world are already overfished. This demands finding income alternatives that do not depend on increasing overall fisheries production and which can incorporate other economic activities such as agriculture, aquaculture, tourism and artisanry. To do this, FSRE would have to expand its base of expertise beyond agricultural crops and livestock to a much wider range of livelihood activities and their interdependencies. Furthermore, this will also require FSRE to change its focus from production to conservation of resources, a focus shift which will mean that FSRE must begin to look seriously at ecological sustainability as one of its criteria for evaluating alternatives.
Finally, where fishing exists in combination with use of coastal land resources and estuaries a more traditional FSRE approach could be applied to the aquaculture or farming components. In Asia and India, fish farming is already common either in conjunction with rice paddy agriculture or in separate ponds that receive animal and plants wastes as fertilizers. This is what Ruddle (1991) argues for when he discusses integrating aquaculture into an integrated farming systems approach. In fact he sees this as having great potential for creating stronger linkages between all the components of the farm
system, by using waste materials from one activity as energy or material sources for other activities and creating greater output with less need for outside inputs.
While there are many unanswered questions about how the methodology of FSRE may be best applied to small-scale fisheries, there is a strong trend in current socioeconomic studies of fisheries to recognize the need for multidisciplinary and humancentered research (Charles, 1993). It is also widely acknowledged that solutions for fishers will not be appropriate unless they are site specific, account for the unique mix of cultural factors and livelihood strategies in an area and draw upon fishers! traditional knowledge. These are all processes in which FSRE has proven strengths. Major challenges remain in expanding FSRE to cover the policy -recommendation arena and in adapting its quantitative tools, such as adaptability analysis to the more complex nature and higher uncertainty levels in assessing fish stocks and the variable strategies of fishers.
The author wishes to acknowledge the kind assistance of Mr. Ali Ustun and Mr. Allen Wood for their helpful review and comments on this paper. The final responsibility for any errors remain the author's.
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