On the Occasion of World Fisheries Day
Abu Dhabi – 19 November 2020:
To commemorate the World Fisheries Day which is celebrated every year on November 21 , the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) launched the IUCN Guidelines for the Gathering of Fishers’ Knowledge for Policy Development and Applied Use. The launch is also in collaboration with World Forum of Fisher Peoples, and International Planning Committee Working Group on Fisheries.
The voluntary guidelines recognise the importance of both indigenous, local marine-coastal community knowledge, and experienced Fishers’ Knowledge for the development of Fisheries Policy. They are designed to provide guidance on how to utilise this rich cultural knowledge in resource management, across a range of contexts, in pursuit of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. The management of fisheries is defined across marine and freshwater systems as well as commercial, recreational, subsistence and small-scale fisheries.
They were developed by a team led by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi and included contributions from 50 experts and case studies from 16 countries.
The development of the guidelines followed a robust participatory process and consulted with stakeholders from subject matter experts to governments, small-scale fisher organisations, indigenous fisher organisations, civil society organisations, research and academia, and the private sector.
There was an identified need for the guidelines as a way of showing how Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi targets on Traditional Knowledge and Fisheries policy development could be achieved.
One of the important targets is Target 18 on traditional knowledge which has three key elements. Firstly, respect of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources. Secondly, traditional knowledge is subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations. Finally, traditional knowledge is fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.
The guidelines have established one of the main distinguishing characteristic of Fishers’ Knowledge, which is that it is experience-based, as fishers include experienced people, who have been involved in a fishery community over an extended period of time, across several generations. The information provided by the fishers can be applied to boost scientific studies on how fisheries and ecosystems have changed over time.
These guidelines are applicable in small-scale freshwater, riverine, lacustrine and near-shore coastal fisheries, where there is a community associated with, as well as relying on fishing for sustenance, recreation, or a source of income.
Fishers’ Knowledge can be used by fisheries resource managers at community, local, regional, and national levels in countries where there are coastal, marine and freshwater fisheries. They can also be utilised by communities, Non-Governmental Organizations, (NGOs) and researchers who wish to study and recognise traditional fishing knowledge in coastal, marine, and freshwater systems.
Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD and IUCN Councilor for West Asia on the occasion said: “In the past, the sea and its fisheries were a source of sustenance and survival. Today, globally fishing accounts for about 17 % of the global population’s intake of animal protein and provides around 3.2 billion people on the planet with nearly 20 % of their animal protein. As a result, almost 90 % of global fish stocks are either fully exploited or in decline. Achieving sustainable fisheries and seeking to maintain traditional links in society today is a significant topic, and one that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and we at EAD are proud to be working with the international community to solve.”
Her Excellency added: “Fisheries provide food security, livelihoods and income to millions of people, however in some cases, their management still presents a challenge to managers and other stakeholders due to problems in gathering suitable information and incorporating this accumulated knowledge in fisheries policy. With these new IUCN Guidelines for the Gathering of Fishers’ Knowledge for Policy Development and Applied Use, we will be able to resolve this challenge and move forward to better manage fisheries and develop policies based on the experiential knowledge of the fishers, who have generations of information that is extremely beneficial.”
She stated: “Fishers have often been excluded from processes of data collection, analysis, interpretation and management. Currently, there is now increasing recognition of the value of incorporating traditional fishing knowledge in freshwater, riverine, lacustrine, and coastal and marine fisheries management. This is becoming evident in international conventions and published literature. As such, we know that the main purpose of these guidelines is to make it easier for users to recognise and include fishers’ knowledge as an important data stream in resource management.”
“Fishers’ Knowledge also includes women’s knowledge. Women participate heavily in the pre and post fishing activities of small-scale fishing and they gather important information concerning the management of resources and ecosystems. They are also adept and well informed when it comes to the harvesting of fish and are definitely a repository of knowledge and technologies.”
Lead author of the guideline, EAD’s Marine Policy Manager Winston Cowie, added: “The guidelines were developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts led by the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Group, with support from EAD in the United Arab Emirates, and specialists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission, IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, IUCN Snapper, Seabream and Grunt Specialist Group, and World Forum of Fisher Peoples. It is a real international effort and we are pleased to showcase the UAE’s traditional knowledge survey in these guidelines, as an example of how to incorporate this important basket of knowledge in fisheries policy development. We thank all of the experts from all over the world who gave their time, energy and knowledge in the development of these guidelines.”
The guidelines are complimentary to international instruments and guidelines including the Convention of Biological Diversity, Aichi Targets, to the United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries to the UN Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines, as well as the IUCN and United Nations, (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Guidelines that highlight the importance of traditional knowledge.
In 2016, EAD, in collaboration with Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, launched the UAE Sustainable Fisheries Programme in recognition of the severely overexploited state of fisheries resources in the UAE, which aimed to ensure that the UAE fisheries are utilised sustainably.
As part of that programme EAD completed a survey of over 300 fishers across the Emirates. It was revealed that 80% of the experienced fishers surveyed considered at that time that the fishery was severely overexploited, independent of the scientific information.
The EAD team also produced a film about this traditional fishing knowledge survey and the state of the UAE fisheries entitled ‘Our Sea Our Heritage’ which premiered at the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show last year. It is available on EAD’s YouTube channel in English and Arabic and was one of the key drivers behind the development of this best practice guideline.
Earlier this year EAD also recorded a positive increase in the stocks of some of the main commercial fish species in the waters of Abu Dhabi. This rise is attributed to the policies, procedures and administrative measures of a comprehensive protection plan undertaken by EAD to improve the deteriorating status of depleting fish stock types, which was created with the goal of sustainability for future generations.
To download the Guidelines please visit https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/49130.