Global Fisheries

Global Fisheries Governence and Social Justice Panel

The Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) and Urban Coast Institute (UCI) hosted  a panel discussion that addressed the intersection of fisheries  governance and social justice around the world on Thursday, Apr. 8.

The panel was moderated by Randall Abate, Director of the IGU, and featured presentations from  Yoshitaka Ota, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor for the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington; Xiao Recio-Blanco, Program Director of the Environmental Law Institute; and Erika Techera, Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Western Australia.

Together, the panelists discussed the intricacies of environmental law in regard to fishing and its overall impact on marine ecological systems.

Abate gave a brief introduction before opening the floor to his co-sponsor, Tony MacDonald, the Director of the UCI.

MacDonald said, “I really think this issue is of increasing importance as we consider more international activities that underscore how we should go about protecting biodiversity, and more specifically, fisheries…We’re pleased that we have reached so far around the globe for today’s webinar.”

Afterward, Abate introduced the first speaker, Techera. Her specializations include fisheries regulation and marine law, both of which spotlight her discussion of illegal fishing and regional Indian Ocean governance. Although she was unable to make a live appearance due to time zone differences, she prepared a pre-recoded presentation that initiated the event.

“The reason why I think we should focus more attention on the Indian Ocean is two-fold; firstly, because it is one of the fastest growing regional economies in the world— contributing shipping, transportation, fishing, and tourism,” began Techera.

“Second, the sheer level of diversity different continental countries taking an interest in their shared ocean.”

However, being a lawyer and a legal academic, Techera explained that the legal diversity surrounding the Indian Ocean is a particularly special interest of hers.

“The challenge and interest come from the attempt to harmonize these different legal frameworks to achieve common goals, in this case, fishing,” stated Techera.

“With all of that legal diversity in mind, the one, common feature among them all is the focus of the blue economy,” said Techera.

The blue economy is a multi-faceted approach to governance that expands upon sustainable energy and conservation, while maintaining a level of integrity and improvement for humans’ standard of living.

Techera’s specifically presentation developed this principal idea of sustainable fisheries. She identified opportunities by which these states in the Indian Ocean can use to combat the challenges that accompany this type of endeavor.

“For instances, an architectural approach, such as a council on fisheries data, and/or regional treaties that surveil law enforcement,” developed Techera.

“These are just a few options that may facilitate the level of sustainability we are looking to move forward.”

Abate segued, “Continuing on the legal governance theme is our second presenter, who is also the director of the Environmental Law Institute’s Ocean Program, Dr. Xiao Recio-Blanco.”

Blanco has lectured on the topic of fisheries and ocean management across the world, in Europe, Mexico, and the United States. His current specialization is in regulatory tools that support ocean governance in Latin America.

“If we want to move towards a truly sustainable ocean management, we need to pay special attention to the governance of the small-scale fishing sector,” started Blanco.

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI), of which Blanco represents, is a non-partisan, independent education center. He took most of his presentation to explain the purpose and work of ELI.

“At ELI, we seek to provide the most effective stewardship of the ocean. Because we are a small, educational center, we purposefully do not engage in campaigns or in lobbying; however, we do often partner with larger organizations that use the outcomes of ELI research for their own advocacy campaigns,” stated Blanco.

With ELI’s mission in mind, Blanco continued, “Since ELI is a legal analysis center, I want to share why we have decided to prepare regulatory documentation for the small-scale fishing sector.”

“The one, basic reason why small-scale fisheries are so poorly regulated is because it is difficult to legally define what and who is characteristically a small-scale fishery.”

Therefore, this documentation Blanco proposes is that much more important in not only legitimizing the existence of small-scale fishers, but also promoting uniform sustainability.

Following Blanco was the event’s third and final panelist, Dr. Yoshitaka Ota, Research Assistant Professor for the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington. Along with his role as an educator, Ota is also the director of the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center— an international, interdisciplinary organization.

According to Ota, “The Nexus Center is new research institution specialized in ocean governance that focuses on the idea of bringing equity and justice into ocean governance.”

Ota expanded upon Blanco’s points about small scale fisheries; however, from the angle of how these fishermen are perceived via the media and other institutional findings that blame overfishing on those who depend on the oceans for their livelihood.

“If fishermen are not getting enough money then we have to give them some alternatives; therefore, comes in the blue economy concept,” stated Ota.

Ota explained that it is necessary to revise what is originally understood about the blue economy so that it can better fit the circumstances and needs of others, like the smaller, local fishermen.

To further emphasize his point, Ota underscored the purpose of Ocean Nexus, which is to enhance equity, thereby facilitating social justice— “this process is what governance means to me,” concluded Ota.

Upon the three speakers having officially finished their presentations, Abate then tied presentations together in stating, “A lot of these challenges we cannot necessarily resolve in the span of one panel discussion, but I think we have raised some important questions and resulting suggestions as to how we move forward.”