Right to Resources


The survival of marine and inland fishing communities depends on access to fishing areas, on their collective rights, and adjacent areas for housing fish processing and other community and occupational needs.

Sustainability depends upon effective management of marine and inland fisheries resources. Upon ensuring that overfishing and overcapacity do not degrade the ecological conditions, that they do not harm the breeding stocks of fish. It depends on the collective responsibilities of fishers and fishworkers, regulatory institutions and governments.

ICSF aims to protect and strengthen both collective rights and responsibilities. How? By promoting responsible small-scale fisheries (SSF) through a rights-and-responsibilities framework both in the marine and inland context. By advocating policies that recognize the customary rights and traditional knowledge systems of fishing communities.

With their future dependant on the health of fisheries resources and their distribution, fishers have a great stake in their sustainable management. ICSF programmes help them acquire additional knowledge and skills to adapt their practices to changing conditions. Through training, sound communications and diverse stakeholder involvement—including women, youth, indigenous people marginalized groups—to participate in decision making.

Several ICSF programmes in 2008-2019 analysed, prepared and promoted the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines). Along with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the government of Thailand, ICSF organized a civil society preparatory workshop in Bangkok. Before 2008 it held major workshops in Asia (Siem Reap, Cambodia), Eastern and Southern Africa (Zanzibar, Tanzania) and Latin America (Punta de Tralca, Chile).

These events are part of an extensive campaign for secure and equitable tenure rights to fishery resources, not just in the waters but across adjacent land and forests. When fishing rights take into account social and cultural conditions, it helps improve programmes for socioeconomic uplift and environmental protection.

Current Programmes

In light of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (the Tenure Guidelines), the SSF Guidelines and the SDGs, ICSF has initiated the Making the Small-scale Artisanal Fishing Zones Work! campaign to enforce/create small-scale artisanal non-towed fishing gear zones (SFZs) to benefit fishing communities using these gears and practices in a sustainable manner. The campaign seeks coherence between equitable development of fishing communities and conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in at least three countries before 2024.

Although SFZs or similar area designations exist at the informal level in many coastal nations, the formal creation of SFZs at the national and subnational levels in South and Southeast Asia has a history dating back to the 1970s. In India, for example, SFZs have been created at the subnational level since the 1980s. However, there are no recognized tenure rights to the SFZs. The SSF Guidelines are aware that creating exclusive zones alone are meaningless unless secure tenure rights to the fishing grounds, to land and other resources that form the basis for their social and cultural wellbeing are also granted. The enforcement of the formal SFZs also need to uphold conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources. Governments, fishworker organizations and informal institutions such as traditional panchayats (village councils) in India need to recognize the importance of these elements.

In India, ICSF has initiated the campaign in the state of Andhra Pradesh, starting first with the most disadvantaged (fisher and fishworkers engaged in harvest of fish using no craft or non-motorized traditional craft), paying special attention to the SFZs that are adjacent to the low tide line and earmarked for small-scale artisanal fishing communities. In 2020, ICSF completed the survey of literature and data on fishing practices in marine capture fisheries in India and the social development of coastal fishing communities. Through virtual consultations with its local partner in Andhra Pradesh, ICSF completed the design of the study questionnaire and its translation into Telugu, the local language. The survey documents the various characteristics of the fishery (viz., craft and gear combinations, fishing grounds, species, seasons, conflicts between competing user groups and traditional tenure arrangements and systems of resource management); the social development of non-towed fishers and their families; and their perception in relation to securing rights of relevance to these arrangements, especially to defend their access to marine living resources.

This survey is to be undertaken in two more provinces but is delayed due to the COVID-19 situation and will resume as soon as the public health conditions allow to do so. It will then be extended to Sri Lanka and Indonesia in partnership with relevant fishworker organizations or NGOs


The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2011: A primer for coastal fishing communities – in English, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Odiya, Malayalam and Bengali

This Primer has been prepared to promote awareness among fishing communities and support organizations about the contents of the 2011 Notification, issues of continuing concern for fishing community organizations, and...

Aportes de las mujeres en las pesquerías de pequeña escala : Contributions of women in small-scale fisheries in Spanish Produced by Solidar and ICSF

This video talks about the contributions of women in small-scale fisheries. Women contribute to marine conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources. That is why we seek for...

Artisanal Fisheries in Brazil

This study deals with the challenges facing the development of artisanal fisheries in Brazil. The problems affecting production in the sector are worsening, due as much to objective factors like...

Study of territorial use rights in small-scale fisheries : traditional systems of fisheries management in Pulicat Lake, Tamil Nadu, India

This paper describes and analyses the system of traditional fishing rights in Pulicat Lake, the second largest lagoon of India spreading across the States of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh....

Traditional Knowledge (Conocimiento Tradicional Última versión): Costa Rica in Spanish Produced by Solidar and ICSF

When fishers get involved in the research process and decision-making, the plans for the fisheries are much more efficient. This process can be the key to understand, recheck and use...

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Linkages between inland fisheries and international instruments – Opportunities for engagement by David Coates et al., 2023

The ecosystem approach to inland fisheries management (EAIFM) requires the consideration of inland fisheries beyond the confines of the fisheries sector. Inland fisheries can be invisible in some fora and...

Human development report 2021-22: Uncertain times, unsettled lives: Shaping our future in a transforming world

We live in a world of worry. The ongoing Covid-19 pan­demic, having driven reversals in human development in almost every country, continues to spin off variants unpre­dictably. War in Ukraine and...

Blue Transformation – Roadmap 2022–2030: A vision for FAO’s work on aquatic food systems

This document outlines a roadmap for the transformation of aquatic food systems – ‘Blue Transformation’, providing a compass for the FAO’s work on aquatic food systems for the period 2022–2030....

Report of the Third Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Brussels, Belgium, 31 May − 4 June 2021

The Parties discussed the results of the questionnaire for the review and assessment of the effectiveness of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), agreeing that the questionnaire was a useful...

The 1989 FAO Standard Specification for the Marking and Identification of Fishing Vessels – use and options for review

The main conclusion of this study is that the identification and marking of fishing vessels and the compiling and maintaining of this information in accessible national, regional and global records...

A call to action from small-scale fishers

Small-scale fishers (SSF) are the most numerous ocean users, and their major contributions to livelihoods, food security, employment, and revenue, contrast with their marginalisation in decision-making. To ensure healthy and...

Our ocean, our future, our responsibility: Draft declaration of the 2022 United Nations Oceans Conference, Lisbon, 27 June–1 July 2022

The General Assembly, in its resolution 73/292, decided that the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and...

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022: Towards blue transformation by FAO

The 2022 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture coincides with the launch of the Decade of Action to deliver the Global Goals, the United Nations Decade of...

2022 UN Ocean Conference: Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 27 June 2022

On Monday, the second UN Ocean Conference opened in Lisbon, Portugal. Delegates met in plenary in the morning, and in an interactive dialogue on marine pollution in the afternoon.

Characteristics and performance of fisheries co-management in Asia: Synthesis of knowledge and case studies: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines and Sri Lanka

The overarching objective of this report was to determine, from current evidence and experiences from the region, a view of co-management application and performance. Among the findings of the review...

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