BEAUFORT — Duke University Marine Lab scientists are investigating the role of small-scale fisheries in society and sustainable development.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization announced Oct. 15 it and Duke University entered into a partnership Sept. 30 to conduct a study assessing and promoting small-scale fisheries. According to the announcement, the partnership is building “on a history of past collaborations in the area of research on small-scale fisheries” and will focus “on creating a solid evidence base for countries to use in developing strategies and policies to support sustainable small-scale fisheries.”
DUML associate professor of sustainability science Dr. Xavier Basurto is one of the principal investigators in the study, titled Illuminating Hidden Harvests. Dr. Basurto said Oct. 21 in an email to the News-Times other DUML faculty involved include Dr. Lisa Campbell, Dr. David Gill and Dr. Pat Halpin. DUML students are also participating.
“The questions we’re trying to answer are important and challenging for the sustainability of coastal marine environments,” Dr. Basurto said. “The main hypothesis is that (small-scale fisheries) make important contributions to food security, poverty alleviation and resource sustainability. The challenge is to measure and account for their contributions and impacts. We hope to provide a more accurate global picture of the status of these fisheries and their contributions and impacts to society and the environment.”
Dr. Basurto said he and his colleagues are relying on data already collected to build a database of small-scale fisheries in 58 countries. It includes data from all of the U.S., “so indirectly Carteret County fisheries are included.”
While the partnership, which includes not only the FAO, but also international fisheries and aquaculture research nonprofit Worldfish, was officially formed Sept. 30, Dr. Basurto said their work began in 2017 and will be complete in 2021. The study team hasn’t reached any final conclusions yet; however, Dr. Basurto said they’ve made some preliminary findings:
- A significant portion of the world’s fishing catch is generated by small-scale fishers.
- These fishermen target around 500 species worldwide, but 80% of the catch comes from about 30 species.
- The majority of the catch comes from species with lower risk of extinction, as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
- At the same time, small-scale fisheries also seem to be targeting IUCN species of highest concern and more data-deficient species than large scale fisheries.
- In general, small-scale fishers increase diet diversity, particularly for vulnerable populations, including children, and produce income to safeguard against extreme poverty and increase access to food.
- Most governments around the world now share management rights with fishers.
Dr. Basurto stressed the findings are preliminary. He said he and his colleagues are still analyzing the results of their data gathering and will produce a global report for publication by the FAO when they’re finished.
“We’ll also produce scientific publications and policy briefs through podcasts for a general audience,” he said.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.