Research articles

Challenging the Blue Economy: Voices from Artisanal Fishing Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean


In a recent paper (here) that challenges the prevailing narrative surrounding the blue economy, researchers from ERC Tradition and the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, have laid a comprehensive roadmap for a more equitable and sustainable approach to marine resource conservation and development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The paper, led by L.C. Gerhardinger et al., delves into the intricacies of artisanal fishing communities, offering a call for “Blue Justice”—a concept that prioritizes human rights, social justice, and the sovereignty of these communities over their ecosystems.

The Genesis of the Study
The paper is the culmination of an extensive workshop (check more) that brought together artisanal fishers, academics, and policymakers, as reported in another recent post (here). The workshop sessions were divided into groups based on language and region, allowing for a nuanced discussion of the challenges and strategies related to the blue economy. The study draws from the Cananeia Statement and the Gender Equity Action Plan, both of which were developed during the workshop.

Challenging the Status Quo
The blue economy, as championed by organizations like the World Bank, has been criticized for its focus on economic growth at the expense of social and environmental considerations. The paper challenges this narrative by proposing an integrative approach encompassing health, food security, and environmental protection. It argues that the blue economy’s top-down approach, controlled by industrial and political elites, marginalizes small-scale fishers and undermines their influence in the governance of their livelihoods.

Six Key Messages
The paper distills its findings into six key messages:

Prioritizing Artisanal Fishers’ Needs and Traditional Knowledge: The paper advocates for the recognition and respect of ancestral rights and traditional knowledge in fisheries management.

Focus on Health, Food Security, and Environmental Protection: It calls for a human rights-based approach that interweaves health, food security, and environmental protection.

Promotion of Gender Equity and Youth Involvement: The paper emphasizes the need for gender equity and youth involvement in the sector.

Solidarity Among Artisanal Fishers and Preferential Access: It champions the right of affected communities to participate in decisions concerning their livelihoods and environments.

Inclusion of SSF Guidelines in National and International Frameworks: The paper calls for the incorporation of the Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Guidelines into both national and international frameworks.

From Blue Economy to Blue Justice: It proposes a shift from the blue economy approach towards blue justice, emphasizing the importance of equitable access, fairness, and the sovereignty of small-scale fishers.

A Call for Blue Justice
The paper’s call for “Blue Justice” is a significant contribution to the discourse surrounding blue economy initiatives. It advocates for a path that respects and upholds the rights and knowledge of artisanal fishers, providing a solid groundwork for a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable approach to marine resource conservation and development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As the world grapples with the complexities of sustainable development, this paper timely reminds us that any approach to the blue economy must be equitable and inclusive. It enriches the discourse and provides actionable insights for policymakers, academics, and communities alike.

Workshop video edited in a collaborative approach (Educommunication activity led by João Lazaro with support from ERC Tradition team).

Check the full set of information about IYAFA 2022 regional workshop in LAC here.