Background and Rationale


the views of coastal and artisanal fishing communities on fisheries and aquaculture policies, coastal management, access to markets and the conservation of aquatic biodiversity in Latin America,

Workshop, Chile 4-8 August 2008

In Partnership with the National Confederation of Chilean Artisanal Fishermen (CONAPACH), the Centro Ecoceanos, and CeDePesca (the Centre for Development and Sustainable Fisheries)



In Latin America and the Caribbean, whether in marine coastal areas or in inland waters, the activities of fishing communities face growing and undefined challenges from the globalization of trade, and of production and financial systems, the predominance of neoliberal policies and the privatisation of access rights to fishery resources, with consequent economic concentration and transnationalisation. This is taking place in a context where regional systems of democratic representation function poorly, preventing social organizations from participating effectively in decision making processes at local and national level.

It is of vital importance to coastal and artisanal fishing communities that their interests are safeguarded, that legal protection is applied to their access rights to fishery resources and to a range of aquatic ecosystems, and to the property of the coastal areas where they live and carry out their traditional activities.  At the same time gaining recognition for such rights – within a framework of sustainable and equitable resource and aquatic ecosystem use – implies that coastal and artisanal fishing communities effectively engage in the management of coastal areas and resources.

In March 2005, at the Santa Clara Workshop[1], organized by ICSF and CeDePesca in Argentina, representatives from fishing communities, NGOs, researchers and public functionaries from Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina met to analyse the situation and outlook of resource access rights, their working conditions, the sustainability of marine and freshwater resources and their contribution to food security and coastal development.

The declaration of Santa Clara outlines a range of proposals for action, both for the short and long term, at local, regional and international level.


Fisheries management and associated systems for monitoring, control and enforcement have failed to deliver sustainable and equitable fisheries. The reasons are manifold, but it is widely held that if fishing (user, access and property) rights and respective user responsibilities were better defined and respected, fisheries management would be more effective in achieving its objectives viz a viz sustainability and equity.

Various systems of allocating rights have been proposed, including individual transferable and non transferable fishing quotas (ITQs and IQs), Community Fishing Quotas (based on locality, organization, or fleet groupings), and territorial user rights (TURFs).

Although some of these systems attempt to establish private property regimes over resources, particularly through ITQs, in practice, as resources are motile and unquantifiable, it is impossible to actually privatise fish stocks. So, in effect the system becomes one of assigning private and tradable fishing rights that may be effective for rationalizing the capital invested in industrial fishing, but whose social and environmental consequences are hidden.

Furthermore, the mythology of infallibility that ITQ systems had 10 years ago has been replaced by the current realities of those countries that pioneered their application, which are no different from the general problems that beset all fisheries. Of note, in New Zealand catches of hoki have been reduced from historic levels of 250,000 tonnes to 80,000 tonnes this year (2008), and Iceland has reduced its cod catches from 260,000 tonnes to 130,000 tonnes this year (2008).

The FAO Secretariat has concluded that fishing rights are absolutely necessary and fundamental to the sustainability of the world’s fisheries resources.  Furthermore, that fisheries policies, management approaches – and fishing rights   need to be tailored to the specific context of countries and localities with respect to the fisheries in question, the social setting culture etc.

According to Ichiro Nomura, ADG and Chief of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, “fishing rights do not simply equate to the ITQ systems that have been designed for large-scale fleets.  Moreover, fishing rights should not be limited to large scale fisheries.  The current variety of schemes for formally allocating fishing rights has vastly expanded the range of fisheries and fishing situations to which rights-based schemes can be applied”.  According to him, “they should apply to large and small fisheries, both with large and small boats”; and what is more “they are by far the best tool to re-establish and formalise traditional fishing rights and, thus, protect the rights of the fishermen.”

The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) advocates that such an approach should take into account the social and cultural characteristics of the sector, as well as the implications for strengthening democratic processes, respect for human rights and strengthening capacity in coastal and fishing communities. ICSF feels that it is essential for such rights to be seen not so much as property rights per se, but as a kind of usufruct  or a right to harvest and subject, accordingly, to appropriate limitations.

In Latin America various trials with such systems have been undertaken, with rights assigned to communities in bentonic fisheries in Mexico, Peru, and Chile, or with individual catch quotas in Peru, Chile and Argentina.

It is most important that we draw conclusions and learn from these and other experiences of fisheries management, so that together we can get up to date on the state of this debate in each of our countries. This will enable us to develop points of view and proposals, based on the social and cultural particularities of our region, which may contribute to achieving our goal of assuring the quality of life and sustainability for coastal communities that depend on fishing.

For this reason, ICSF, in partnership with CONAPACH, Centro Ecoceanos and CeDePesca have decided to organize the Second Regional Workshop in order to analyse the changes that have occurred in Latin America in recent years as regards artisanal fishing rights; to re-evaluate the Santa Clara proposals, and the develop common positions and proposals that can be presented at the FAO’s World Conference on Small-Scale Fisheries, to be organized in Bangkok, Thailand in October 2008.

This is particularly important given that the Conference will place special focus on the issue of securing access and user rights by small-scale fishers, indigenous peoples, and local communities, to be addressed through its the three main themes:

  • Securing social, economic and human rights;
  • Securing sustainable resource use and access rights; and
  • Securing post-harvest benefits:

More information on the Conference can be found via the link: http://www.4ssf.org/index.htm


The workshop is aimed at artisanal fishing communities in Latin America and support organizations. It has the following overall objectives, in line with the FAO Conference agenda:

  1. Discuss and develop proposals towards maintaining and improving access to resources and markets for artisanal fishermen at national, regional and international level;
  2. Discuss the relationship between human rights, biodiversity, and fishery management tools from the perspective of artisanal fishing communities;
  3. Facilitate participating organizations to develop common proposals based on the key themes of the FAO’s World Conference on Small-Scale Fisheries.

Cross cutting issues will include gender and the rights of indigenous communities.