Ocean To Table: The Realities of Small-Scale Fisheries

Where does the seafood on our plates come from? Most of the time it’s a question we wouldn’t

ask ourselves. Much of the seafood in the United States is the product of commercial fisheries.

This is especially true for landlocked states. However, sustainable small-scale fisheries, that are

pivotal to costal communities are largely compromised by these industrial outfits.



Small-scale fisheries face marginalisation on a global scale. This is threatening the livelihood of

millions of people. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations heavily

concurs with this statement, adding that “small-scale fisheries contribute to over 50% of fish

catch in developing countries.”


Despite having this stake in the industry, many fishermen and women do not have guaranteed

work and live in poverty. This is likely due to the inconsistent nature of their earnings, as some

seasons are more prominent for fishing than others. There is also oftentimes no social safety net

for workers that play such a pivotal role in their community.


In order to move towards a better future these small-scale fisheries must be consulted on

decisions that will impact their livelihoods. A fishery is an economic necessity, but can also be

very significant culturally.



An article by Marine Fish Conservation Network’s Lisa Behnken describes fishers as “the

storytellers of the ocean.” Behnken goes on to explain what she means by this, saying that fishers

are amongst the first to witness declining state of our oceans. It’s directly correlated to their

livelihoods, and an essential part of their identity and being.


“Fisheries around the world are threatened by mines, logging, fish farms, and of course climate change. Meanwhile industrial fisheries are permitted to harvest as bycatch the fish that small-scale fishermen and fishing communities depend on, both culturally and economically.”

Being aware of where seafood comes from is the first step to helping small fisheries. It’s a

question you can ask yourself at the grocery store, or when you’re out to eat. Where is this fish

coming from? Is it sustainably sourced? You can help by supporting local and sustainable

fisheries for your seafood options.


Additionally, signing petitions and taking action to support sustainable fisheries and the ocean as

a whole really does make a significant difference. Raising awareness to the problems that

fishermen currently face is a way to support the betterment of this industry, especially if these

fisheries are not directly a part of your community!


Above all, it is essential that the populace listens to and supports small-scale fisheries. They have

a deep understanding of the ocean and know how best to take care of their communities.

Overfishing is problematic part of the industrial fishing industry. Small-scale fisheries that

support a local populace and have minimal environmental impact are the key to sustainability.


by Katherine Burns, Junior Editor at Coast 2 Coast Movement