(En)gendering Change in Small-Scale Fisheries Science and Policy

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Increasingly the challenges of environmental governance are understood as global in nature and scope. Within fisheries, industrial fisheries have long been the global priority in fisheries science, policy instruments, and management techniques. Meanwhile, small-scale fisheries (SSF) have historically been relegated to the margins, framed as local, place-based, static practices from the past rather than global priorities. This dissertation examines the conditions and consequences of transformation in SSF governance, as SSF are becoming a global concern. The passage of a recent internationally negotiated policy for the small-scale sector signifies this monumental shift underway in global fisheries governance priorities: The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines).By ‘following the policy,’ this research examines the dynamics of policy mobility (e.g., who and what came together to make and implement this policy) across multiple sites and scales of policymaking and implementation as the SSF guidelines are mobilized at global, regional, and national levels. The movement to transform fisheries governance is examined against past patterns in fisheries science and policy, including through analysis of a large-N dataset. The mixed methods used provide needed insights into how different actors (e.g., scientists, policymakers, civil society organizations) have grappled with the questions “governance of what, by whom, to what ends” in SSF through time. While the passage of the SSF Guidelines in 2014 was considered a landmark moment for the SSF sector, attention has now shifted to what they will become; whether and how this policy will ‘scale down’ and to what effects. Studying policy implementation is critical to understanding how transformative change happens in fisheries governance and environmental governance more broadly. Developed with ongoing input from civil society organizations, the SSF Guidelines are the first global policy designed explicitly for SSF. Endorsing gender equality, decent work, and human rights as necessary tenets of sustainability, this policy’s core principles stand in stark contrast to the status quo in fisheries governance. But what these principles will become is uncertain because policy implementation was left intentionally open-ended in the text of the SSF Guidelines which were written without pre-determined implementation targets or definitions of success. This dissertation addresses the central question: How is such an unconventional and unlikely policy mobilized in practice, and how are the ideas within translated in place? To this end, this research engages with the literature on global environmental governance, theories of scale from human geography and common-pool resource scholarship, and the emergent field of critical policy studies, extending these insights to the dynamics SSF governance, an understudied common-pool resource system undergoing transformation here and now. Amidst the wider movement to transform fisheries governance to be more equitable, this research focuses on the principle of gender equality within the SSF Guidelines. Emphasis is placed on how the principle of gender equality came to be part of a global policy instrument in the first place, and later, articulated as the focus of national policy implementation. While this is a multi-sited and multi-scaled story, the dynamics of national-level implementation are followed in the context of Tanzania, one country working to implement this policy in their vast inland and marine fisheries with a chosen focus on gender. Tracing the multi-stakeholder process of developing a national ‘roadmap’ to implement the SSF Guidelines there, this dissertation reveals how the goal of gender equality was translated into specific strategies determined in place, including through a collaborative effort to ‘map’ existing women’s fishing organizations and networks among them. Conclusions demonstrate that flexibility intentionally built into the design of global policies can create room for new understandings of what small-scale fisheries are, how they should be governed, and what a sustainable and desirable future for fisheries looks like—making space to imagine and enact alternatives that are more just and inclusive. Following the indeterminate arc of policy mobility then is critical to determining who steps into the space created by policy change. In the story of creating and implementing the SSF Guidelines, civil society organizations played an outsized role in affecting multi-scalar policy transformation.





Smith, Hillary Suzanne (2021). (En)gendering Change in Small-Scale Fisheries Science and Policy. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23125.


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