Reflections on the Labrador research forum

 

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Guest Blog by Rachael Cadman, PhD student

By the end of my week in Happy Valley, I had already sworn to become fluent in Inuktitut, write a review of the entire oral histories of Labrador fisheries, and attempt to single-handedly dismantle the colonial structures of academia. It was the first official week of my Interdisciplinary PhD, and I was so honoured and surprised by the warm and enthusiastic reception we received that I had immediately fallen for Labrador and the people I met there.

Megan Bailey (MAP Professor and my PhD supervisor) and I had travelled to Happy Valley/Goose Bay in late April/early May to attend the Labrador Research Forum. It was an opportunity to get oriented on ongoing research in Labrador, to build relationships with our research partners in Nunatsiavut, and to start planning for the future of our research project.

We started the week by meeting with potential partners on the project. We’ve teamed up with the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat to work, along with partners in the government and in the communities, towards a vision for the future of commercial fisheries in Nunatsiavut. We had meetings with the Torngat Fish Producers Co-operative and the Nunatsiavut Government Department of Lands and Natural Resources to hear their input on the project proposal. Both groups provided invaluable insights on how to improve the project, and the general enthusiasm for the work was so motivational that I got really fired up for the next four years of what promises to be fascinating and rewarding work.

Following the meetings, Megan and I attended the Labrador Research Forum. Because the Forum is thematically organized around “Labrador”, rather than being specific to a discipline, the proceedings were truly interdisciplinary, affording an opportunity to see the whole range of research that is happening in Labrador. Topics were generally organized around health, archival research, and social and environmental science. This gave me a chance to learn a lot of interesting and useful things about Labrador – did you know, for example, that Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province where researchers haven’t found the West Nile virus? That microplastics are intensely place-based forms of pollution? Or that rabies is reasonably common in Arctic foxes and stray dogs in Labrador?

While all of the research was engaging, I took three interrelated lessons from the conference that will play a major role in my work moving forward. I still have a lot of work to do unpacking and deepening my understanding of these concepts but some initial reflections on how they will affect my thinking and my actions as my PhD develops are expanded on below:

Humility/vulnerability

As a researcher in an Indigenous space, I am not a leader. I am there to listen, to learn, and to respond to the needs of the community. It is all too easy to act on the power that comes along with being an academic and a settler. Acting on those impulses, however, will not help anyone. It erases the knowledge, the history, and the relationships that Indigenous people hold. It closes my eyes and ears to the power of a completely independent system of knowledge.

Instead, as I embark on this project, I must always remain aware of everything I do not know, and everything I can never know. This is a frightening place to be in as a researcher – we are not supposed to say “I don’t know”. But I will never have clear and total access to Indigenous knowledge, and I can’t claim any ownership over whatever I do learn from the people I work with. My role is not to lead, but to follow – to help where I can, and to make sure that the benefits of my work are returned to the communities.

Centring Indigenous perspectives in research

In approaching this project with humility, I must necessarily move myself to the side – I am, as much as possible, an observer – and move Indigenous perspectives into the centre of the research.

Centering Indigenous perspectives transfers power from the hands of the researcher into the control of the community. This allows the communities to structure the project according to their needs and priorities. It opens up space for the research to become reciprocal, because the researcher can create something that is useful for the community.

Research methods must be highly participatory and iterative to reflect the needs of the community. Several panels of Inuit researchers, community members and elders pointed out that any researcher coming into the community from the outside should be asking: What does your community need? What do you want to know? and to make the answers the basis for their research.

Academia can make this a difficult task, as funding models and timelines may interfere with the ability to develop projects in this way. But it is necessary that I find avenues to work around these systems in order to be accountable to the needs and priorities of the community; centering Indigenous perspectives in research both encourages self-determination, and makes it possible to deliver a product that is actually useful for the community.

The importance of relational/place-based engagement

In order to do research that is reflexive, iterative and community-driven, the person collecting information must be embedded in the location of the research. This is true for practical reasons; participatory research should be evaluated and community-reviewed on a regular basis to make sure that it is true to the collective vision. Staying in the community makes this type of back-and-forth communication possible, and builds better trust relationships between the researcher and the community.

It is also more fundamentally true insofar as it speaks to the relational nature of learning. For a long time, it has been a tradition in Western science to lay claim to a neutral, value-free perspective. What was revealed to me through the course of this conference was the fact that knowledge is never value-free, and that presenting it as such erases the incredible complexities and nuances of life. All of our knowledge is grounded in culture and in place. Learning is human and relational, and it is my task to acknowledge that embodiment.

My research, therefore, must be (literally) grounded in place. It must acknowledge my limitations, biases and perspectives, and it must pay as much attention to the process of developing and conducting research as it does to the final result.

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Megan and I have returned from Goose Bay, and I have since been grappling with the implications of everything I learned for my project. I maintain my sincere and probably naïve promises to accomplish all of the goals I set at the top of this post, and more (I am already looking into how I could participate in the West Nile mosquito project this summer), but I acknowledge now the implications of what it means to embark on a project like this one. It is quite an overwhelming first week of a PhD to realize that I need to commit not only my head, but also my heart, to the challenges ahead.

 

 

Small is beautiful: Taking stock of improvement efforts in Indonesian handline tuna fisheries

Guest blog by Helen Packer, PhD student

As the largest archipelago in the world and with over 17,000 islands in the heart of the Coral Triangle, Indonesia’s past, present, and future is intimately tied to the ocean, including its rich tuna fisheries.

The Indonesian handline yellowfin tuna fishery has been in a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) since 2011. It all started with a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) pre-assessment commissioned by WWF Indonesia, and has now become a large multi-stakeholder effort including local and international NGOs, industry members (via Asosiasi Perikanan Pole and Line dan Handline Indonesia – Handline and Pole & Line Industry Association, AP2HI) and international buyers from both Europe and the US. The attention that Indonesian fisheries have attracted is considerable. Donors and buyers alike are funding multiple efforts that aim to improve the socio-economic aspects of small-scale tuna fisheries and to ready them to meet international market requirements for various environmental (MSC), social (Fair Trade USA) and traceability aspects: (US SIMP, EU IUU regulations, etc).

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Buru Handline fisherman – Photo: MDPI

The fishery may be small-scale, but working towards these goals has been no small task, as MDPI, an Indonesian NGO based out of Bali, can attest. MDPI (Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia – Community and Fisheries of Indonesia) was set up in 2013 with the founding philosophy coming from Anova Food USA’s Fishing & Living initiative: “Improving Life in the Fishing Communities”. In 2012, Anova’s Fishing & Living initiative entered a 1-year public-private partnership with USAID Indonesia to set up a pilot data collection program in the handline tuna fishery of Lombok, subsequently called I-Fish. The data collection program quickly grew to new sites with Anova hiring over 25 enumerators across different landing sites. Given the success of the data collection program and additional funding opportunities for traceability activities, MDPI was formed to take over and continue the program. MDPI has now grown to an organization of over 70 staff distributed across the country and funded by multiple international donors.

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MDPI annual gathering (October 2018) – Photo: MDPI.

MDPI’s motto is “Happy People, Many Fish” and has three main streams of work:

  1. The Fishery Improvement (FI) team focuses on fisheries data collection. When the FIP started, lack of data was the main issue with small-scale fisheries in Indonesia – there simply was not any data that could be used to assess the environmental sustainability of the fishery. MDPI now collects fisheries data across eastern Indonesia, including catch, effort and spatial fishing data. These data are uploaded to I-Fish, which is now used by NGOs and sent to the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF).
  2. The Fair Trade (FT) team focuses on the Fair Trade USA program. In 2013, a group of 70 fishermen became Fair Trade certified, making it the first fishery in the world to be Fair Trade certified. Today, the program now includes over 500 fishermen and continues to grow as more fishermen hear about the program. MDPI’s field staff lives with the FT communities and helps them with setting up fishermen associations, manage the Fair Trade premium and provide various trainings to empower them (e.g. financial management training). The program has brought direct benefits to fishers, and the Fair Trade standard is well-aligned with the FAO Guidelines on Securing Small Scale Fisheries.

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    Fair Trade fisherman association – Photo credit: MDPI
  3. The Supply Chain (SC) team focuses on traceability and monitoring. The SC team implements traceability systems to ensure that products coming from small-scale fisheries meet international market requirements and therefore are not excluded on the lucrative export market which supports their livelihood. The SC team also works on fisheries monitoring by piloting vessel tracking devices (e.g. SPOT TRACE and PDS) and electronic observer technologies (handheld cameras) suitable for small-scale fisheries.

I had the privilege of spending the last two weeks of November with MDPI, attending a harvest strategy workshop in Jakarta with government fisheries scientists and managers, visiting small-scale processing plants and meeting with the handline tuna fishermen of North Buru (a small island in the Maluku province). The goal of this visit was to start preparing the fishery and its supply chains for entering MSC full assessment before the end of the year. Even though I have been involved with MDPI’s work and the handline tuna fishery since 2013, this trip has reminded me once more of the fascinating complexity of tuna fisheries management from the international levels of fisheries management to the beaches where the tuna are landed.

One of the main sustainability challenges for all tuna fisheries in the Pacific Ocean is the absence of harvest strategies. Given the migratory and transboundary nature of tuna fisheries, harvest strategies must be developed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (or WCPFC), an inter-governmental body in charge of managing Pacific tuna fisheries. Member states like Indonesia are thus also working to develop harvest strategies that are compatible with the WCPFC’s, a process that started in the fall of 2014 and is still on-going. During my trip, I had the chance to attend one of the bi-annual harvest strategy meetings during which Indonesian fisheries managers and scientists, with the support of NGOs such as MDPI and international experts, met to review the result of different harvest control rules and their potential social, economic and environmental trade-offs. During this process, Indonesia is gaining expertise and knowledge on how harvest strategies are designed and taking the matter in their own hands. Together with other NGOs, MDPI has been an important partner in this process by providing some of the data needed by the government to conduct a stock assessment, the first step for designing suitable harvest strategies.

It seems that the harvest strategy process along with Indonesia’s ambition to sustainably manage its fisheries has triggered multiple changes in how Indonesia monitors its fisheries, with the introduction of new port sampling forms, electronic logbook programs and modernized database management between various departments related to fisheries management. These are massive changes in a country where data are still largely recorded on paper and mailed from the provinces to the central government. Moreover, the government will soon be able to integrate data collected by NGOs such as MDPI as part of their national fisheries database. On this note, on December 7th, MDPI and the Capture Fisheries division (KKP) of MMAF signed an MoU which solidifies their partnership. This sets a new precedent for the government of Indonesia to collaborate with NGOs who support sustainable fisheries and provide capacity where it is missing. The inclusion of handline tuna fisheries data is also the first step to ensure that small-scale tuna fisheries are no longer being overlooked by national monitoring programs and their interests are being taken into account. A very important step given that an estimated 90% of Indonesian vessels targeting tuna species in Indonesia are small-scale.

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MoU signing between MDPI and KKP – Photo: KKP/MMAF Indonesia

From the busy roads and air-conditioned hotels of Jakarta, I flew to the Maluku province to better understand the management process and how MDPI’s work in the field is supporting that effort. And boy! it is truly marvelous how MDPI has built a network of dedicated staff who collect daily detailed fisheries data from the isolated beaches and coastal villages of the Maluku islands.

Around 4pm, after a 12-hour fishing trip, two fishermen landed their 8m canoe on the beach as family, friends and MDPI staff rushed to greet them and help haul the canoe up onto the dry shore.

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Families and friends help haul the boat back on the beach – Photo: Helen Packer

Before the tuna loins are unloaded (interestingly, tuna is loined at sea in this fishery as the boat itself is not large enough to store an icebox suitable for a whole tuna) and sold to the local buyer, MDPI staff measure the loins and ask the fishermen a number of questions about his trip: fishing grounds, fuel use etc. These data are carefully recorded on a clipboard or tablet and directly uploaded to the I-Fish database.

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Loins are measured as soon as the fish is landed by MDPI’s sustainability coordinators – Photo: MDPI

From there, each loin is marked with the name of the fisherman who caught it and sent to the processing plant for further processing and export. Many fishermen in the area are Fair Trade certified and receive a premium placed in an account owned by the local fishermen’s association. Based on a consensus decision between the fishermen, the premium is spent on community projects such as improved trash disposal infrastructure, safety-at-sea equipment, saving accounts for the fishermen’s children or turtle conservation projects.

To ensure that the fishermen get their premium, the loins must be carefully traced until the last point of sale: the customer. MDPI was again instrumental in this process, working with Wageningen University to pilot a robust traceability system that allows us to trace each loin back to the community that caught it. This pilot was then modified into an electronic traceability system called Trace Tales for processing plants which were developed by MDPI and funded by USAID. Trace Tales has been a small revolution not only for traceability but also for business intelligence as it helps with reducing human error and gives real-time tracking of yield and inventory.

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TraceTales is an electronic traceability system developed by MDPI for seafood processing plants -Photo: MDPI.

Artisanal fishermen are some of the last fishermen that truly know their way around the ocean, often without GPS, and truly know how to locate the fish by observing the surface of the sea for hours, looking for signs such as dolphins, birds or flickering activity below the surface. This requires incredible experience, patience and observation skills. This is more than a way of fishing, it is a way of life that deserves to be preserved. Making sure that these fishermen’s interests are represented, for example by collecting fisheries data for management, telling their stories to consumers on the other side of the world and making sure they retain their access to the lucrative export market, is what MDPI together with Anova and other stakeholders aim to do. Happy people, many fish!

Project trip to Nain: Reflections on fisheries management

Guest blog by Melina Kourantidou, Post-doc

In late November (2018) I travelled to Nain (Nunajnguk) for participation in a workshop organized by the Torngat Wildlife Plants and Fisheries Secretariat. This was part the first of what is sure to be a series of project trips for my new postdoc position funded by the Ocean Frontiers Institute – Module E, Ecosystem Indicators for Changing Oceans. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Nunatsiavut Government (NG), researchers, local harvesters and Labrador Inuit Land Claims beneficiaries and designates to an open dialogue on the status, current management of fisheries as well as future planning. The main species of discussion were Snow Crab, Northern Shrimp, Turbot and Arctic Char.

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The group addressed issues that ranged from environmental changes and vulnerabilities such as ocean acidification, health of fish stocks and fluctuations in fish stock biomass due to changes in currents and tides, changes in water temperature, parasites and invasive species, to market components such as prices, landings, local processing capacity as well as fisheries management policies and measures such as mesh size, catch per unit effort, and various other components of both the commercial and the subsistence fishery. All that to say it was a busy two days!

The meeting was very informative and got me and my colleagues engaged in a series of discussions on how to begin our work in OFI Module E. My part of the project will be to identify and characterize ways to improve the governance of marine resources, especially those resources of importance to the Inuit in the self-governing Nunatsiavut region of Labrador. In particular, employing a methodology based upon the development of socio-ecological indicators and the construction of models that inform natural resource conservation, I plan to investigate broad questions concerning whether an integrated framework for ecosystem-based management (EBM) can lead to improved governance in this region. At this preliminary stage, my goal is to deepen my understanding of the economic and institutional determinants of marine resource use in the area as well as the major environmental and governance challenges.

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A lot of the difficulties and disagreements in marine resource management in Northern Labrador have roots that reach back decades. The Nunantsiavut Government is an Inuit regional government, among the first Canadian Inuit regions to have achieved self-governance, after nearly 3 decades of negotiations (see more on information on the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement- LILCA and the path to self-governance here). Despite the success in achieving self-governance, and in including Inuit at multiple levels of decision-making, there still remain numerous challenges that have not been adequately addressed. These institutional changes to self-governance aspire to fundamentally alter the resource management dynamics and advance, in an equitable manner, the way resources (both natural and human) are being allocated. However, this is a rather gradual process that requires time as well as solid long-term planning. The good news is that there is already work in progress in designing sustainable and resilient marine resource management policies in the area: The Imappivut Marine Plan (Our Oceans) is a plan to manage and protect Inuit interests in the coastal and marine areas of Labrador by putting forward a set of concrete cooperative management plans for the protection of future Inuit generations.

The most prevalent concern amongst the participants at the workshop that drew my attention had to do with limited representation of vessel owners/harvesters’ interests in the decision-making process for marine resource use by DFO. Therefore, some of the participants took the opportunity at the meeting to express their concerns in hopes that the NG and DFO representatives would communicate them to higher-level decision making authorities. In the paragraph that follows, I’ll give a very brief overview of some of those concerns which I aspire to address in my project.

The processing plants in communities of Northern Labrador often have problems finding and maintaining employees due to problems with accommodation in those small communities; that is often seen as a waste of valuable resources. In addition to that, the fact that harvesters are not license holder but designates, that do not have a seat at the negotiating table, is not aligned with the policy makers’ vision for local economic development as it discourages young people from building a career in the fishery and therefore results in missing opportunities. Despite the ambitious plans based on the success of the LILCA, there is generally more action needed to support Northern Labrador; a way to do this, according to some harvesters at the meeting, could be to invest in processing plants in the area. There also seems to be a competitive relationship between large and small vessel: today’s technological efficiency allows for fishing activity almost all year round which creates concerns for the potential of large and efficient vessels depleting the fish stocks. I could also sense a conflict between the ‘communal’ (subsistence) and the ‘competitive’ (commercial) fishery, since the former is hardly monitored.  Access issues and rights allocation were also brought up in the discussion; although there’s a general urge for locals to make investments (in e.g. fishing boats), the fact that there are no quotas attached to their boats is seen as a barrier. The limited representation of local harvesters over the years in the decision-making process is seen as the main driver for lost economic opportunities. When the shrimp quotas for example first started being allocated, unlike in other places, in Northern Labrador they were not attached to other quotas (eg. crab) or boats. Additionally, in the 1980s, at the time when there was a general boost in economic activities in the fisheries sector, Northern Labrador missed the opportunity of transitioning to larger boats: licenses were not assigned as they should to beneficiaries and those licenses that were not renewed were lost.

Besides the marine resource challenges addressed at the meeting, an additional thing that I did learn to appreciate while being in Nain is that weather conditions can be a tremendous challenge if the necessary infrastructure is not in place. And if one wants to effectively support livelihoods and economic activity in Arctic coastal communities, investments in upgrading such infrastructure would have to be an absolute priority. Me and my colleagues were stuck in Nain for 3 days after the project meeting with no planes landing or taking off due to the severe weather conditions and the limited capacity of the airport. I am confident that Nain’s airport must be the airport with the smallest runway (605 m / 1,986 ft) in the whole Arctic; I can only reference locals for that, but a look at the airports with the shortest runways at a global level leaves almost no doubt about it.

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My rumination might lack a neat conclusion at this early stage of the project, however, the anecdotal information from the meeting in Nain, spurred interest and attention to issues that are not often discussed in the formal fisheries economic literature. Fisheries management in small Arctic communities presents unique challenges which have not been adequately thought through by scholars in the field. Those challenges call for more theoretical work as well as data collection on the socioecological components that drive marine resource use in Northern Labrador.

Special thanks to Rodd Laing (Director of Environment, NG) and Joey Angnatok (local harvester and boat owner) for their contribution to the reflections from the workshop as well as for spending additional time with me and my colleagues to help us better understand the dynamics of marine resource use and management in Labrador. Thanks also to the Torngat Joint Fisheries Board for the invitation to attend.

An open letter to the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson

Guest blog by Hussain Sinan, PhD student

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An open letter to the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Dear Honourable Minister,

I would like to thank you Honourable Minister for taking time from your busy schedule and visiting Dalhousie University to join the fire-side chat on October 22. Your interventions during the informal chat were inspiring in several aspects. First of all, as a social scientist, I was encouraged to hear you highlight the struggles that we face every day in getting social sciences up on the research agenda. Though our area of expertise is so important for policy makers and fisheries managers in their decision-making processes, we are often ignored or our advice considered secondary. As you have emphasized, a lot of work has to be done to bridge the knowledge gap between science, policy and people that policy is meant to impact. Another important message you highlighted on several occasions was the necessity for youth to voice their concerns, in order to bring about change. Here, I would like to use this opportunity to voice out a concern to you, Honourable Minister, which is very close to my heart and to my research interest.

Discussing the future of the ocean, you have mentioned that one of the main challenges facing sustainable and equitable ocean governance, is the increase in the gap between the poor and the rich. I couldn’t agree more. As prescribed in the s. 15(2) of the Constitution Act 1982, differential treatment especially for disadvantaged groups or communities is fundamental to close that divide. The gap between the rich and the poor is not only local, but it exists at the international level as well, especially in shared fisheries resources. The needs of small-scale fishermen in developing coastal states are often ignored in the decision-making process, as fishing resources are most often divided among countries with strong fishing histories, histories that have been disproportionately bolstered by colonial power and fishing subsidies. Not surprisingly, the countries that have employed industrial fisheries in those time scales are the developed nations (predominantly the G7 countries) and in most circumstances, they are allocated 90 – 95% of the resources.

Canada was a fundamental leader in the negotiations for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. One of the main objectives for developing a legal instrument was to bring about a new economic order, one which takes into account the interests and needs of mankind as a whole, and, in particular, the special interests and needs of developing countries, whether coastal or landlocked. Even though Canada has not been on the forefront in ocean affairs in the last two decades, the upcoming International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting from November 12 to 19 in Croatia, offers a platform. Canada could use the opportunity to help close that gap between the rich and the poor, and doing so, support responsible management of shared fisheries resources.

The latest stock assessment for bigeye tuna in the Atlantic shows a very bleak picture. If the current levels of fishing continue, there is an almost certain probability that the stock will collapse by 2033. The most important negotiation in the upcoming meeting is to set a sustainable total allowable catch and to develop mechanisms to ensure that the limit is not surpassed.

Currently, 7 out of the 52 ICCAT member countries are allocated 92% of the overall bigeye tuna quota.  Interestingly, 5 of those countries are developed countries and the majority of them are the wealthiest countries in the world. Canada fishes around 200 metric tonnes (MT) of the 65,000MT bigeye tuna quota, which is a minor figure compared to all the rest of the developed nations. According to the quota allocation mechanism adopted in 2016, Canada could increase their catch up to 1,575MT, but it would be unwise to do so based on the stock health.  The mechanisms adopted in ICCAT also so far has made the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. Some of the developed nations simply obtain a quota based on their historical fishing levels (based on 1991 levels), even though their fishing has drastically reduced in the last couple of decades. Some of the other developed nations give a blind eye to their quotas and keep on fishing, as they realize their ‘big brothers’, will protect them and transfer their quotas to them. Finally, some developed nations reflag their vessels to developing nations to get around restrictive quotas, making use of ‘flags of convenience’. These bad practices coupled with the enormous amount of capacity-enhancing subsidies transferred to the fishing industry in many developed nations means there is no level playing field for developing nations to compete or negotiate for sustainable use of, and access to, the resource.

Subsequently, these developing coastal states do not have the institutional capacity to negotiate, neither to understand and interpret international legal instruments and protect their sovereign rights. It is a norm in these international negotiations that when a country remains silent, they are in an agreement for the measure. However, most countries fear to speak mainly due to lack of expertise or fear of rebuttal based on their interventions. Canada has an immense opportunity, with the best universities in the world, to help increase the capacity of these institutions and support the negotiating power of their decision makers.

As I was thinking to write this open letter to you Honourable Minister, my attention was turned to an interesting intervention made by Dr. Lucia Fanning, professor in Dalhousie’s Marine Affairs Program in a public panel discussion in honour of Elisabeth Mann Borgese on November 1. Dr. Fanning mentioned that despite the calls for cooperation in international legal instruments, it is almost impossible to reach a cooperative outcome in reality. As I have observed in several international fisheries meetings,  developed countries continue to use their power to circumnavigate and undermine the conservation and management of shared fisheries resources to accumulate perceived rights and wealth at the expense of any capacity or development improvements in developing countries. This upcoming ICCAT meeting is an opportunity for Canada, through the leadership of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to implement what you’ve preached and help to bridge that gap between the rich and poor, by establishing a fair, transparent and equitable management measure for our shared Atlantic tunas.

At the same Elisabeth Mann Borgese panel, Dr. Wendy Watson-Wright, CEO of the Ocean Frontier Institute, highlighted that a lot of world leaders whom she spoke with in the last few years have expressed to her that “Canada is the beacon of hope” for the future of the ocean. Right now, there is an opportunity to act on this by leading the ICCAT community to a more just, responsible, and fair system of fisheries management across the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

 

 

PhD position:Human dimensions of marine ecosystem-based management in Nunatsiavut

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Need | We are seeking a highly qualified and ambitious candidate interested in pursuing a PhD in marine socio-economics. The successful candidate will contribute to work of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI, https://oceanfrontierinstitute.com/), and be housed within Module E: Ecosystem Indicators. This is an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of contributing to safe, sustainable, and societally relevant ocean development. Based at Dalhousie University, in Halifax Canada, the successful candidate will be supervised by Dr. Megan Bailey.

 

Rationale | Characterizing the human dimensions of marine ecosystems, specifically values and benefits from ecosystems, requires quantitative and qualitative social, economic, and cultural indicators. Yet, while experts clearly identify the need for this information to contribute to EBM decisions, few actually use them. Given this gap, our action research will develop and spatialize indicators of community values and uses to inform EBM and marine spatial planning in Nunatsiavut (Figure 1).

MapProject | We will use action research and participatory GIS mapping (PGIS) in pursuit of three objectives: 1) to identify spatially the values associated with

use of the ocean and coast of Nunatsiavut; 2) to develop SMART (smart, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) socio- economic and cultural (SEC) indicators to measure the extent of current delivery of different values; and 3) to analyse the extent to which changes in indicator values may provide information on ways that the ocean and coast are accessed, and how that access will likely change in the future.

Figure 1. Project area of focus will be Nunatsiavut.

Qualifications | The ideal candidate will have a Masters

degree in fisheries management, marine management, environmental policy, or a related discipline. Experience in, and knowledge of, quantitative and qualitative social research methods is preferred, and previous experience using GIS, or collecting spatial data is an asset. Candidates should also have (i) the ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment, (ii) strong written and oral communication skills and (iii) experience conducting fieldwork.They will also have a demonstrated ability to work as a constructive and positive member of a team. We are particularly interested in recruitment of Inuit candidates, and will work with candidates to ensure their program of study and supervisory committee is supportive of their personal and professional backgrounds.

Compensation | Student stipend for three years has been secured, in the amount of $23,000 per year. Funding is through the Ocean Frontier Institute, with partnership support from the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat.

To apply | Interested applicants should send a CV and cover letter to megan.bailey@dal.ca. Closing date for applications will be December 1. The selected candidate will apply through the IDPhD program at Dalhousie (https://www.dal.ca/faculty/gradstudies/idphd/details.html).

Images courtesy of Tourism Nunatsiavut and Nunatsiavut Government

Fishy travel notes from Cabo Verde – guest post by Helen Packer

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Skipjack tuna sold by street vendors

I recently came back from a small group of volcanic islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of West Africa where the sun shines everyday and rainfalls are celebrations, where landslides and volcanic eruptions are never too far in the future (at least in geological time), where the music is always playing somewhere around the corner and people are always smiling, and where arid and volcanic landscapes meet rich under water ones. This place is Cabo Verde, a place where Morabeza is the guiding principle and describes what it means to be Cape Verdean: open spirit, welcoming, hospitable, relaxed and an islander.

You may or may not have heard of Cabo Verde as it is small in size and remarkably isolated but it certainly is big in ambition and open to the world. Its land mass only covers 4,044 km2 but its ocean surface is almost two hundred times as big at 785,000 km2. The islands of Cabo Verde are located at the junction of different oceanic currents but too far from the coast to be affected by the upwelling currents that fertilize the west coast of Africa. However, Cabo Verde does get exposed to some iron fertilization from the Saharan dust that gets blown across the ocean. As a result of various (and still not well understood) oceanographic processes and its isolation, Cabo Verde has a rich underwater life with high levels of endemism (when species evolve separately, creating new species).

You might wonder what is the link between volcanism and oceanographic processes and fisheries management? The link is that Cabo Verde is surrounded by underwater volcanoes also known as seamounts that deviate ocean currents and cause local upwelling and thus create local productivity hot-spots which attract small and large sea life from corals and sponges to whales, sharks and tunas. Seamounts make up the largest and most productive fishing grounds off Cabo Verde, attracting local and international, small-scale and industrial fleets alike. Fishing is an important part of Cabo Verde’s culture and economy. It is also an important source of food with the average Cape Verdean consuming 21.1kg of seafood a year.  However, as is the case with many coastal states in West African countries, Cabo Verde does not have the capacity to fully exploit its fisheries resources and therefore has signed access agreements with the European Union (EU) and issues licenses to foreign fleets such as China and Japan, which allows them to fish in Cabo Verde’s EEZ, under certain conditions.

Cabo Verde’s national fleet is largely made of small vessels (8-25 horsepower engines) that use handline and small purse-seine nets and catch around 9,000MT/year. Catch includes a wide variety of species consumed on the local market such as groupers, seabream, conchs, small pelagics such as bigeye scad and scad mackerel, moray eels, various species of lobsters, shrimps and crabs (see pictures). These small boats also go out further at sea to the local seamounts where they can catch skipjack tuna and large yellowfin and bigeye tunas. Locally caught tuna is either sold fresh on the market or canned locally at the local processing plant (Frescomar).

Larger fishing vessels (longliners, purse-seiners and pole-and-line) are also allowed to fish in Cape Verde under access through the EU Sustainable Fisheries Agreement (Spain, Portugal and France) and licensing of foreign vessels (Japan, China and Senegal). These vessels catch between 30,000 and 40,000 MT/year and mostly fish on Cape Verde’s seamounts for large pelagics such as tunas and sharks.  By law, all the catch should be transshipped in port, where it is pre-processed and sent to Europe for canning.

Local fishermen often express their concern about decreasing catch of coastal fisheries, blaming the EU purse-seine fleets for catching large numbers of juvenile tunas and longline fleets for targeting blue sharks (legally). Fishermen believe that foreign fleet activity potentially affects availability of fish, especially closer to the shore, disrupting local ecosystem functioning and affecting species abundance and distribution. These views of fishermen are in contrast to the fact that the EU Sustainable Fisheries Agreement (SFPA) is based on the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy key principles, including sustainability and protection of endangered species. Indeed, the broader aim of the agreement is “to enable sustainable and responsible fishing opportunities, while contributing to broader development objectives in the third countries”.  But this begs the question:  is the agreement achieving these aims if it is negatively affecting local ecosystems and decreasing catch by local fishermen, forcing them to go further out at sea? Moreover, incomplete or in some cases absent catch data is a big issue in Cape Verde, leading to high levels of uncertainty in stock assessments. Many of the longline vessels, whose catch is 80% sharks, do not have observers on-board, potentially opening the door to illegal transshipment at sea and shark finning. Vessel monitoring systems (VMS) are in place, but Cabo Verde has yet to develop a compatible on-land monitoring system. Therefore, many aspects still need to be improved with regards to the management of EU fleets including better monitoring and enforcement, better reporting and by-catch measures.

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Seafood is an important part of Cabo Verde culture (credit: Packer)

The EU agreement brings almost € 1 million a year to Cabo Verde but who is benefiting from the agreement? It was reported that 71% of the revenues made from foreign fishing operations goes to the EU with only 17% going to Cabo Verde. Is this a fair bargain, contributing to local development? The government of Cabo Verde did try to invest in increasing local fishing capacity but there seems to be little interest for new entrants to join the fishery. As a result, the government is now focusing its activities on improving its fisheries research capacity.

This makes me wonder if Cabo Verde’s Morabeza has been a blessing or a curse when it comes to fisheries management. However, Cabo Verde is no exception. Development and sustainability issues associated with access agreements and foreign licensing are occurring in developing coastal states all over the world. However, this doesn’t have to go on. This year, Cabo Verde has another chance to change the course. The latest EU agreement is expiring and negotiations for renewal are on-going. The question is, will the voice of local fishermen be heard? So far governance has been top-down, non-transparent and industrial fishermen, being more organized, have been more influential in decision-making processes. How will Cabo Verde support its local fishermen? Protecting local fisheries is not only important for fishermen’s livelihoods but may also be a question of food security, with much of the seafood consumed in Cabo Verde being caught by local fishermen. Other than protecting its resources, Cabo Verde fishermen could also do with some support to improve the quality of their product for potential export. However, this also means careful consideration for local food security.

Cabo Verde has few land-based natural resources but has been blessed with rich fisheries resources. It is imperative that these resources are sustainably exploited and in a way that supports the social and economic development of Cabo Verde. This is the challenge that many developing coastal states face but one that must be solved through transparent and fair negotiations with foreign fleets, improved management capacity at the country level, and increased capacity to obtain more value from its resources whilst considering local food security issues.

Living in an isolated archipelago with such limited resources, Cabo Verdeans have developed a unique identity and strong attachment to their land (and oceans!). But Cabo Verdeans are also adventurous travellers, with many of them moving overseas for better opportunities. However, their strong connection to their country means they often come back after years of living, studying and working abroad, to share what they have learnt and contribute to solving the challenges their country faces. Despite these challenges, the people from Cabo Verde never forget to slow down and enjoy life while still being determined for a better future. If Cabo Verdeans taught me one thing, it is the importance of enjoying “the little things” and, doing nothing!

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Cabo Verde landscape (credit: Packer)

Is “sustainability” sustainable anymore? – Guest post by Hussain Sinan

The Maldives – a tiny island state in the middle of the Indian Ocean – is where I call home. It’s known for its pristine waters, 5-star resorts, and fisheries. Of the three, the locals most clearly identify with the fisheries, and specifically our world-renown tuna fishery. Our tuna are caught sustainably – one-at-a-time with almost no bycatch. And our tuna literally fuels the entire country. The average Maldivian eats half a kilo of tuna per day. That can be breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and maybe a snack or two in between).

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Back in 2008, our tuna fishing industry decided to obtain an internationally-recognized eco-label (the MSC Blue Tick), to let the world know what we’ve known for over 1,000 years – that our fishery is sustainable. In 2012, when MSC finally decided to award us with the MSC certificate, the President personally accepted the certificate from MSC’s CEO during the Fishermen’s Day celebrations. It illustrated the importance our leaders placed on the white piece of paper certifying what we already knew – that our low-impact fishery was, and is, ‘SUSTAINABLE’.

The main theme of this year’s INFOFISH Tuna 2018 – Bangkok Conference, the largest tuna industry gathering in the world, was “Braving Challenges: Towards Traceable and Sustainable Tuna Industry”. The agenda was filled with tuna businesses, tuna processors, market analysts and technological innovators. There was little focus on fishermen and fish workers. I have always believed that sustainability and traceability of tuna industry should come from the back-bone of the industry – the fishermen and fish workers.

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The opening remarks by the chairman of the Conference was a stunner!! Speaking about the sustainability of purse seine fisheries using FADs, he claimed that the media has exaggerated the impact of FADs on the environment and that the real impact is minimal. Imagine that! The opener of a conference about ‘sustainability’ saying that one of the most environmentally impactful fishing gears is actually not a problem. I was simply beyond words!

And that presentation set the tone of the rest of the meeting. For the next two days, one presentation after the next, (barring a few notable exceptions), explained how tuna sourced and/or tuna processed were sustainable. Based on what I heard, the FAD purse seine fishery was sustainable, the free school purse seine fishery was sustainable, the pole and line fishery was sustainable, the longline fishery was sustainable, the fishery that was not sustainable, but has ambitions of achieving sustainability through a Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP) was sustainable, tuna sourced from overexploited stocks was sustainable, fishing vessels supported by huge subsidies from governments were sustainable, and, finally, fair labour standards in fisheries were also a mechanism to establish sustainably sourced products. When I got out of the conference room on the second day, I was asking myself, are any tuna products ‘NOT SUSTAINABLE?”

Following Bangkok, I flew to Indonesia to participate in the Bali-Tuna Conference in Indonesia. It was a Government-Industry-NGO gathering to address the issues of sustainability of tuna resources in one of the largest tuna fisheries in the world. The main discussion point in the conference was the drive by the International Pole and Line Foundation, the fishermen associations, and the industry to achieve MSC certification for the pole-and-line and handline tuna fishery. One of the questions posed by an attendee to the panel representing retailers and the processing industry was whether obtaining MSC certification was good enough. There were questions posed by the audience whether the costs and the changes brought to the fishery to achieve the targets of MSC can be recovered and finally whether the average fisherman will benefit from the MSC certification. The panel replied that the market demanded sustainable products and if the Indonesian fishermen did not meet those demands, the markets would stop sourcing products from Indonesia. But the remaining two questions were hanging in the air, with no clear answers.

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If every product in the market was sustainable based on the fish processor’s definition of sustainability, how confused will the consumer be? Moreover, if the third party certification body aims to maximize their profit by expanding their eco-label on every product, how can the consumer decide whether it’s genuinely sustainable? Unfortunately, sustainability has turned into such a big fat lie in the realm of tuna! How will the markets react when the consumers find out that hundreds of endangered sharks have been caught along with their ‘sustainably’ sourced fish?

It’s true that consumers in developed nations are demanding more and more sustainably sourced tuna. The only way to guarantee and show to the consumer that the tuna is sustainable is to obtain an eco-label such as Fair Trade, MSC or others. However, the level of burden for small scale fisheries to obtain these eco-labels is much higher than that of an industrial fishery. Imagine what it takes to manage and collect data from thousands of widely dispersed fishing boats in a developing country compared to a handful of industrial fishing vessels. Secondly, the costs of obtaining and maintaining an eco-label is enormous from the perspective of a small scale fishery, and only a drop in the bucket for the big boys. An eco-label does not guarantee a premium, but only guarantees access to the market. Thus the bottom line is, if the small-scale fishermen want to sell their products they need to obtain an eco-label, but may end up with a loss!

With all this at the back of my mind, I feel that sustainability needs to be graded in the future. There needs to be a mechanism to differentiate between the most sustainable to least sustainable! For example, a fishery catching tuna one by one, with almost no interaction with endangered, threatened, and protected species (so-called ETP) and having the wealth of the fishery being distributed among the local community should be differentiated from a fishery catching thousands of tuna from a single scoop with huge by-catch of ETP species and no support to the local community. A fishery that catches hundreds of endangered sharks as by-catch and a fishery with almost no bycatch need to be differentiated.

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For me it has always been that a fishery can only be sustainable if the fish was caught within scientifically supported limits, and with almost no by-catch of vulnerable marine life or habitat damage. But I wonder, what about the human element in it? Should that ‘sustainable’ classification also include labour conditions and welfare? Food security and livelihoods? After all, fisheries management is about managing humans rather than the actual fish. Shouldn’t we be sure those catching the fish are part of our sustainable future? What is a sustainable fishery for you?

Extended reading:

Bailey M, Packer H, Schiller L, and Tlusty M. 2018. The role of CSR in creating a Seussian approach to seafood sustainability. Fish and Fisheries https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12289

Miller A, and Bush SR. Authority without credibility? 2015. Competition and conflict between ecolabels in tuna fisheries, Journal of Cleaner Production,Volume 107: 137-145,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.02.047