What are Artisanal Fisheries?

Fisherman in Trennganu, Malaysia. Photo Credit: Theodore Groves

Artisanal fisheries are small-scale fisheries for subsistence or local, small markets, generally using traditional fishing techniques and small boats. They occur around the world (particularly in developing nations) and are vital to livelihoods and food security. Comparatively, artisanal and commercial fisheries catch the same amount of fish for human consumption (30 million tons), yet artisanal fisheries employ 25 times the number of fishers (over 12 million people) and use an eighth of the amount of fuel used by industrial fisheries annually (Jacquet and Pauly, 2008) .

Off the Borneo coast. Photo Credit: Theodore Groves

Why are they important?

Artisanal fisheries have a significant impact on marine ecosystems – overfishing, habitat damage, and bycatch – but, because they are much more efficient than commercial fisheries, they are also our greatest hope for achieving sustainable harvests.

Gizo, Western Province. Photo Credit: Theodore Groves


Understanding and reducing the impacts of artisanal fisheries on marine ecosystems is a rapidly emerging priority for marine conservation. In the context of degrading ecosystems, increasing fishing effort, and growing human populations, there is urgent need to develop sustainable management strategies for artisanal fisheries. It is critical that we obtain the data necessary for assuring sustainable fisheries management. This requires interdisciplinary research that considers the ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural aspects of artisanal fisheries. In many developing nations, infrastructure and resources available for research, management, and monitoring are severely limited. Further, the inherently decentralized nature of artisanal fisheries poses significant challenges to each of these efforts. There are ongoing efforts to collect the data necessary to describe the impact and management of artisanal fisheries, but in most cases these isolated projects do not realize their full potential for improving fisheries management. Communication and collaboration among scientists, projects, regions, and disciplines are critical if research is to contribute to effective, well-informed management.



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