RIEL researchers at the People and the Sea Conference, University of Amsterdam: July 2017


RIEL researchers at the People and the Sea Conference, University of Amsterdam: July 2017

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Natasha Stacey, Pia Harkness and Dirk Steenbergen recently attended the 8th MARE – People and the Sea Conference, which is hosted biannually by the University of Amsterdam’s Centre for Maritime Research.

‘Dealing with Maritime Mobilities’ was the theme of the 2017 conference, which took place from the 3rd – 5th of July and was attended by approximately 275 participants. The conference aims to bring together researchers who are interested in tackling maritime issues including fisheries, conservation, transportation, and marine spatial planning from a social science perspective. The five streams were: maritime governance, social relations and culture, fisheries management, knowledge production, and coastal threats and vulnerability. The conference key-note address by Professor Edward Allison (University of Washington, Seattle, USA), at the Singel church, discussed maritime mobilities in the time of capitalism and raised important issues regarding the blue economy and neo-liberalisation of the ocean. Dr. Christina Stringer (Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand) focused on another aspect of mobilities; modern day ‘seafood slavery’ in New Zealand’s deep sea fishing industry involving Indonesian fishers.

Natasha and Dirk hosted a panel called ‘Understanding the challenges to Sustainable Coastal Livelihoods: insights from the Arafura and Timor Seas’. The livelihoods of marine resource-dependent coastal communities are highly vulnerable due to their exposure to various pressures resulting from socio-political change (e.g. globalization), economic transformation (e.g. market expansion), ecological shifts (e.g. climate change) and natural hazards. Developing stable and dependable sources of income for such communities is an increasingly prominent objective in conservation and development practice, as it is in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) maritime region. These warm, tropical waters are adjacent to the Coral Triangle - recognized as one of the most marine biodiverse regions in the world. Marine resources, both small and large scale fisheries and associated habitats in the ATS region provide food, income, employment and cultural value for its coastal residents. 

Livelihood diversification or enhancement is often implemented through programs of external agents aimed primarily to relieve pressure on coastal or marine resources. Programs in the ATS region have a major focus on improving livelihood outcomes, like income, food security and wellbeing, in these vulnerable contexts through ‘alternative livelihoods’ and ‘livelihood diversification’. These approaches have become strong narratives in setting local development agendas and directing poverty alleviation strategies throughout the region. Although there is considerable attention in the research and development/conservation sector to improving local livelihoods, a range of challenges remain to develop such approaches to be effective in spatially and temporally dynamic environments.

The six presentations of the panel highlighted shortcomings in contemporary approaches and suggested potential ways to address these. Three main questions were addressed:

  • What conservation discourses and development policy contexts direct/determine the design and implementation of livelihood interventions, and what influences these processes?
  • How do contemporary livelihood improvement interventions frame coastal livelihoods and to what extent does this duly reflect ground level dynamism and complexity?
  • How are dynamic livelihood systems of coastal people affected by markets, environmental change and/or political shifts?

Panel presentations:      

           Introduction -  Dirk Steenbergen “Panel objectives and themes

  1.  Simon Foale (JCU) “The Coral Triangle Initiative through the lens of political ecology: lessons for democratising coastal fishery management and food security research in the Asia-Pacific region.”
  2.  James Prescott/Natasha Stacey (CDU):      “The money side of livelihoods: Economics of an unregulated small-scale Indonesian sea cucumber fishery in the Timor Sea”
  3. David J. Mills (WorldFish): “Livelihood diversity and dynamism in Timor-Leste; insights for coastal resource governance and livelihood development”
  4. Dirk Steenbergen (CDU): “Rapid Livelihood Transitions: Impacts of a Rise in Seaweed Farming on Island-livelihoods in Remote Eastern Indonesia”
  5. Pia Harkness & Natasha Stacey (CDU): “The Timor Sea Montara oil spill: Livelihood impacts on Savu-Raijua District from a transboundary disaster”
  6. Vanessa Jaiteh (Murdoch University)“The end of shark finning? Impacts of declining catches and fin demand on coastal community livelihoods


Following the presentations participants in the session discussed some of the main contemporary environmental, social-economic, and governance threats to coastal livelihoods, especially in the context of regional sustainable coastal resource management and small scale fisheries concerns.


The presentations were drawn from papers recently published in a special feature of Marine Policy issue (82). You'll find the papers in the link below, simply scroll down the volume until you seethe special section: Special Section In pursuit of sustainable coastal livelihoods: insights from the Arafura and Timor Seas region; Guest Edited by Steenbergen, Dirk J.; Clifton, Julian; Visser, Leontine; Stacey, Natasha; and McWilliam, Andrew (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/0308597X/82?sdc=1)


The MARE conference provided a great opportunity to network, catch up with old colleagues and meet new ones.  More information about MARE Conference and full conference program and abstracts can be found at http://www.marecentre.nl/2017-conference/

Dirk and colleagues also celebrated the launch of a book published through MARE entitled, Small Scale Fisheries Guidelines: Global Implementation (published  S Jentoft et al 2017). The book provides an important early stock-take of the implementation of the small scale fisheries (SSF) guidelines developed under facilitation by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The guidelines form a document guiding responsible practice towards sustainable management and governance of small scale fisheries around the world. The book includes an impressive 37 chapters, with contributions ranging from theoretical analyses to policy reviews and case studies from around the world where SSF guidelines have been implemented. Dirk co-authored a chapter with Jim Prescott (former Australian Fisheries Management Authority), in which they argue for a more incremental development of fisheries management that is more deeply rooted in successful past management systems. In doing so they urge for more caution in pushing for a hasty overhaul of current practice towards a new model for which contexts are often not yet ready. The chapter presents six small-scale fisheries case studies from Australian and Indonesia. They compare how different management models are (or are not) addressing governance challenges today, and examine the extent to which these models are able to adopt the kind of the principles put forward by the SSF guidelines.

Chapter reference:

Prescott, J. and Steenbergen, D. J. (2017). Laying foundations for ecosystem-based fisheries management with Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines: lessons from Australia and Southeast Asia. Implementing the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines: Global Efforts. S. Jentoft, R. Chuenpagdee, N. Franz and M. J. Barragán-Paladines. London, Springer: 239-266.



Natasha and collegues had a pre-celebration of their recently launched book ‘Social Wellbeing and the Values of Small – Scale Fisheries’ (2017) D. Jonhson, T. Acott, N.Stacey and J Urquhart (eds), which includes the following chapters:

 - Stacey, N, Steenbergen, DJ, Clifton, J & Acciaioli, G (2017), ‘Understanding Social Wellbeing and values of Small Scale fisheries amongst the Sama-Bajau of insular Southeast Asia’, in Johnson, D, Acott, T, Urquart, J & Stacey, N (eds), Social Wellbeing and the Values of Small Scale Fisheries, MARE Series Vol 17, Springer.

- Acott, T, Johnson, D Urquart, J & Stacey, N (2017) Reflections on social wellbeing and the values of small-scale fisheries, in Johnson, D, Acott, T, Urquart, J & Stacey, N (eds), Social Wellbeing and the Values of Small Scale Fisheries, MARE Series Vol 17, Springer.




The book chapters show that social and cultural values are at least as important if not more so than economic considerations in fisher and non-fisher assessments of the contributions of small-scale fisheries. It also promises to stimulate debate and further research about how to measure the contributions of small-scale fisheries.

More informatino on the book can be found at http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319607498.

A selection of photos from the conference can be found at http://www.woutervanderwolk.com/mare2017/ which show the beautiful city of Amsterdam and the boat ride to the University Roeterseiland campus on Day 1 and the conference dinner which held in Dominicuskerk Church in the centre of Amsterdam. Thanks for the conference organisers for a wonderful event .

We also participated in the Too Big Too Ignore (http://toobigtoignore.net/) Day the day before the MARE Conference where the 3rd World Small Scale Fisheries Conference, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Oct 22-26, 2018 was announced. See http://toobigtoignore.net/opportunity/3wsfc-announced/ for more information.