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Reflections from the Ocean Visions Summit 2021


During the Ocean Visions Summit 2021, a key theme was that actions to sustain lives and livelihoods in small-scale fisheries are essential to fisheries and ocean governance. The Ocean Visions Summit brought together researchers, funders, decision-makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and more to share knowledge and ideas for solving ocean challenges. These included equitable coastal strategies for climate resilience and adaptation, marine economies, ocean and human health, and transforming data to work for people. Presenters in several sessions argued that ocean data are collected, analyzed, and disseminated without benefit for the small-scale fisheries and fishing communities in which data were collected. Small-scale fishery and community actors need to be included in research processes, from data collection through knowledge mobilization. Some Summit presentations argued this requires co-development of research, co-creation of knowledge, and co-delivery of research outcomes that address and target enrichments to small-scale fisheries lives and livelihoods. Other presentations, however, promoted technical tools as panacea solutions to the often incorrect belief that small-scale fisheries were data poor. It will be the job of transdisciplinary researchers to share their approaches, principles and practices to support collaborative research and to point out that small-scale fisheries and communities are data rich: fishers, community members, and other local actors hold ideas about research priorities, long-term observations and stories of resistance and persistence through change. Here, we highlight some of the projects presented at the Ocean Visions Summit that may be helpful in Getting Transdisciplinarity Right.


Lives and livelihoods in small-scale fisheries and fishing communities are some of the most vulnerable to climate change, state-led economic development, water quality deterioration, habitat degradation, and loss of aquatic biodiversity. In the Ocean Visions Summit 2021, a key theme related to capacity building was co-developing monitoring and management infrastructure (e.g. sensor and instrument networks, policy, enforcement) that meet the needs of each community – including being affordable. In South Africa, a community-driven research partnership, “Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve Marine Working Group”, has co-developed innovative ocean monitoring research that works with the fishing communities. Coordinating among stakeholders and rightsholders, academics, and across multiple levels of government is challenging but necessary step towards effective governance. Marine observations are community-driven and -supported using affordable science conducted by and for locals to promote sustainable fisheries ecosystems.


Capacity building in remote SSFs and communities is crucial to promote informed fisheries ocean governance. A key theme in the Ocean Visions Summit 2021 was that small-scale fisheries and communities rarely see or are able to benefit from the results the research conducted about them. Innovación Azul, a social enterprise owned by fishers, fishing groups, NGOs, and other ocean conservation community stakeholders, developed the PescaData App to help small-scale fishers, fishing co-ops and industry organizations position themselves in the market with business tools and services, marketplace opportunities, and community forums, allowing fishers to connect with one another to share knowledge and solutions. The app was co-created and co-developed with fishers and community stakeholders, and supports the underlying need for data sharing and helping SSF communities benefit from research and to not feel taken advantage of, which is key to equitable fisheries and ocean governance.


The Ocean Visions Summit 2021 pointed to a variety of approaches to support sustainable small-scale fisheries and fisheries and oceans governance. Many great sessions pointed to the need for transdisciplinarity or to communicate across disciplines and sectors to integrate different knowledge systems and develop effective governance that supports small-scale fisheries. Knowledge about, with, and for SSF that is co-created and co-developed with coastal communities advances a shared understanding of wicked problems, so alternatives can be properly promoted and considered.

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