Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) generate critical food and income, often where formal markets and supply chains function poorly. These fisheries are under multiple pressures that threaten sustainability and the equitable distribution of the benefits they provide. 

Under its Small-Scale Fisheries flagship, FISH conducted research to secure and enhance the contribution of sustainable SSFs to reduce poverty and increase food security in priority geographies. 

The research was organized across four research and innovation clusters. 

Resilient coastal fisheries 

Coastal small-scale fisheries produce approximately half the fish consumed in the developing world and employ 47 million people, about a third of whom are women. 

Research targeted the challenges of sustaining production from small-scale coastal fisheries in the Pacific and estuarine fisheries in Bangladesh through co-management, with special attention to improving gender- and socially equitable access to resources and benefit streams.

Collaborative research was conducted with fishing communities, civil society organizations, and provincial, national and regional agencies, creating links between localized fisheries management innovations to broader-scale governance improvements. Novel digital approaches for improving small-scale fisheries were increasingly applied. FISH successfully improved and extended co-management and supported a bundle of innovations to improve outcomes of co-management, including innovations that increase equity and inclusion in co-management establishment, implementation and review. 

Download the brief “Increasing social and ecological resilience of coastal fisheries” here.

Fish in multifunctional landscapes 

Research on multifunctional landscapes addressed the challenge of assessing and sustaining the multiple benefits of inland fisheries facing major threats. The work focused on rice-dominated landscapes in Cambodia and Myanmar in the Mekong and Ayerawady delta regions. Research aimed to assess ecosystem-based water management for small-scale fisheries in rice-dominated landscapes, develop integrated production and governance models for small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in multi-use landscapes, and create digital and analytical tools to support planners and decision makers for better management and governance of rice-fish systems and water management. The innovations not only address environmental and nutrition concerns but can also improve the livelihoods of rural farmers. 

Download the brief “Integrated rice and fish systems” here.

Fish in regional food systems 

Food systems encompass actors and interactions from production to consumption and disposal of food as well as social, economic and environmental outcomes. Food systems frameworks provide a holistic approach for research and innovation to enhance the role of fish and other aquatic foods in improving social, economic and environmental outcomes. 

This cluster integrated place-based research on small-scale fisheries and their drivers of change with the evolving role of fish and other aquatic foods in regional food security. Analyses and scenario development focused on the East Africa and Pacific coastal systems, African Great Lakes, and the Mekong region. These analyses underpinned multi-stakeholder dialogue to identify and implement improvements in policies and institutions that incentivize sustainable management while delivering food security and wealth generation benefits for the poor. 

Download the brief “Advancing research and development outcomes with fish in regional food systems” here.

Enhancing productivity and resilience of water systems 

Inland capture fisheries are the primary source of livelihoods and food and nutrition security for people in many countries, but these fisheries are often adversely impacted by irrigation infrastructure. Research by FISH, together with partners, sought to generate evidence and tools to shift policies and investment into integrated water, land and fisheries systems. The research resulted in an evidence-based guide for integrating fisheries in irrigation systems. It also sounded a call to action for improved integration of technical and social sciences in the design and implementation of water control infrastructure to better realize system benefits for more inclusive and sustainable development.

Enhancing productivity and resilience of water systems by integrating fisheries