Maritime Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Working together in small-scale fisheries: harnessing collective action for poverty eradication

  • Svein JentoftEmail author
  • Maarten Bavinck
  • Enrique Alonso-Población
  • Anna Child
  • Antonio Diegues
  • Daniela Kalikoski
  • John Kurien
  • Patrick McConney
  • Paul Onyango
  • Susana Siar
  • Vivienne Solis Rivera
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Empowering small-scale fishers to eradicate rural poverty


This paper builds on lessons learned from case studies of organization-building and collective action as a means of eradicating poverty in small-scale fisheries. The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, endorsed by FAO Member States in 2014, recognize that addressing poverty depends in large measure upon the collective agency of small-scale fishers and fish workers themselves. We first discuss the nature of poverty in small-scale fisheries and argue that lack of rights and debilitating power relations are among the factors contributing to poverty. Secondly, the paper explores the possibilities of collective action and suggests that the support—but not the domination—of government and civil society is crucial. Finally, we look into the characteristics of fisher and fish worker organizations and emphasize the importance of autonomous decision making, and the need to address internal obstacles and opportunities, including those related to gender.



This paper originated from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) project “Strengthening organizations and collective action in fisheries – Towards the formulation of a capacity development program on poverty eradication and collective action in small-scale fisheries.” The first project workshop was held in Barbados on 4–6 November 2014, organized by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies of The University of West Indies. The paper was also discussed at the MARE conference in 2015 in Amsterdam, and at FAO on 16–18 November 2016 in Rome, Italy. The authors thank FAO for supporting the development of this work. Svein Jentoft also wants to acknowledge the support of the Too Big To Ignore (TBTI) global small-scale fisheries research network.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Svein Jentoft
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maarten Bavinck
    • 1
    • 2
  • Enrique Alonso-Población
    • 3
  • Anna Child
    • 4
  • Antonio Diegues
    • 5
  • Daniela Kalikoski
    • 6
  • John Kurien
    • 7
  • Patrick McConney
    • 8
  • Paul Onyango
    • 9
  • Susana Siar
    • 10
  • Vivienne Solis Rivera
    • 11
  1. 1.Norwegian College of Fishery ScienceUiT-The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Planning and International Development StudiesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Anthropology LabSantiagoChile
  4. 4.Products, Trade and Marketing BranchFAORomeItaly
  5. 5.Nupaub-USP University of Sau PauloSão PauloBrazil
  6. 6.Strategic Programme on Rural Poverty ReductionFAORomeItaly
  7. 7.Azim Premji UniversityBangaluruIndia
  8. 8.University of the West IndiesCave Hill CampusBarbados
  9. 9.University of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania
  10. 10.Fishing and Operations and Technology BranchFAORomeItaly
  11. 11.CoopeSoliDar, R.L.San JoseCosta Rica

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