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PLAAS is hosted a special seminar on 21 November 2019 to celebrate International World Fisheries Day.

Speakers explored the topic “Is there space for small-scale fisheries in the Blue Economy?”.


  • Sabelo Mzileni, Kwa-Zulu Natal fisherman and deputy chair of Coastal Links KZN
  • Elyse Mills, PhD student at Institute of Social Studies in the Hague and visiting scholar at PLAAS
  • Junaid Francis, Sustainable Fisheries manager, WWF and PLAAS student
  • Joseph Ginindza, PLAAS student
  • Moenieba Isaacs, PLAAS/UWC

The United Nations (UN) declared 21 November “World Fisheries Day”. This year many small-scale fishers will focus their attention on the Blue Economy as it threatens their access to resources and to practice their livelihoods. They will also focus on securing their tenure rights.

The UN-FAO, development agencies, the World Bank, governments, regional bodies, big international conservation NGOs and philanthropies are all supporting this new development agenda of Sustainable Blue Economy. This means foreign direct investments in extractive industries such as oil, gas, minerals, and fisheries development via aquaculture growth; from establishing hatcheries to investing in fish farming production and markets and claiming large areas of the ocean space for protected areas.

Human rights, decent life, and transnational fair partnerships lie at the core of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For small-scale fisheries the SDG goals of no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, life on, above, and below the ocean and life on land (next to the ocean, lake, and rivers) are all important and necessary—but it is not sufficient. In the SDGs there is a stronger focus on equity—but the poor, marginalised, and vulnerable small-scale fishers in the Sustainable Blue Economy space aren’t experiencing this proposed equality.

At this seminar, PLAAS, the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Coastal Links KZN debated the current struggles and challenges facing small-scale fisheries in and out of the Blue Economy from local, regional and global perspectives. The presenters unpacked the understanding of global fisheries politics in contemporary food systems and climate change from the positions of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) and the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF) through historical and emerging interconnections. The South African small-scale fisheries policy informed international tools like the UN-FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Small-Scale Fisheries and Right to Food, but seems to fail small-scale fishers in South Africa—since politics, economics, transformation, conservation, technology, and our own blue economy strategy, Operation Phakisa, drives fisheries reform in South Africa.

Check out presentation videos from the seminar below:

Moenieba Isaacs: Narratives informing blue economy on the continent and in South Africa and why should we think about blue justice as a key concept for small-scale fisheries research, advocacy and mobilisation

Sabelo Mzileni: Insights from the field and reflecting on small-scale fisheries’ current struggles of access, organising, and implementing the small-scale fisheries policy

Joseph Ginindza: Technology in small-scale fisheries

Elyse Mills: Analysing the global fisheries politics in contemporary food systems and climate change, both historically and through emerging interconnections

Junaid Francis: Perspectives from conservation and small-scale fisheries