Between the 50’s and the 70’s, there was this general understanding that the future of fishing relied on the industrial sector. The only path for artisanal and small-scale fisheries, considered inefficient, would be modernisation towards becoming industrial, until they completely disappeared. Although such hopes have not become true, the idea that “the bigger the better” still infests many minds, including some governmental ones, who believe that larger boats are actually more efficient. But are they really?
|Photo by Laura Honda|
This is what we discussed in our most recent paper "Size matters: fishing less and yielding more in smaller-scale fisheries". The study investigated the existence of possible subdivisions within small-scale fisheries (SSF) themselves, assuming what we all know: things vary greatly within any category, especially within a category to which there is no single definition. We compared small and even smaller scale fisheries (based on boat size and gear used) regarding their economic performance and relative social and environmental impacts to try to find out if one of them would be better positioned to support sustainability. We thought this was a relevant issue to assess because in some countries, like Brazil, governments still enjoy subsidizing larger and more modern fleets, while sometimes (perhaps most of the time) ignoring the little ones. Subsidies, of course, increase the profits or reduce the losses that an economic activity would have without such little hand from the government. But subsidies are controversial, especially in fisheries, where they have been shown to have a complex relation with trade, ecological sustainability and socioeconomic development. It is widely acknowledged that global fisheries are overcapitalized, resulting in the depletion of fishery resources.