What about the Fishers? Exploring the Politics of Transnational Movements

PhD student

Elyse Mills

Thursday 6 May 2021, 13:00 - 14:00
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In this Research in Progress Seminar, Elyse Mills gives an overview of her PhD research exploring the politics of transnational fishers' movements and their role in global fisheries politics.

She focuses particularly on the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) and the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF), two transnational movements that have been engaging in international political processes and spaces since the mid-1990s.

She proposes exploring the politics of these movements through three interconnected spheres:

  • fishers movements (transnational alliances) engaging with global fisheries politics
  • fisheries issues (topics of concern) that movements highlight
  • political processes (spaces of interaction) where movements participate

 Her research demonstrates that the study of fishers movements can:

  1. Broaden the scope of food politics beyond land and agriculture, implicating fishers, fisheries resources (fish and shellfish) and territories (areas where fishing activities occur) in food system transformations
  2. Extend debates around climate politics through analysis of the impacts of mitigation and adaptation initiatives on fishers and fisheries
  3. Strengthen research and understandings of fisheries politics through the integration of knowledge, insights and alternatives from fishers and their movements.

She argues that there have been three distinct, yet overlapping historical waves of development in global fisheries, including the industrialization wave (post-1950), the privatization wave (post-1980), and the conservation wave (post-2000). In combination, these three waves have contributed to overlapping processes of exclusion in the fisheries sector, which exclude small-scale fishers from accessing fishing territories and resources.

Overlapping processes of exclusion have also contributed to different strategies of resistance and forms of mobilization within transnational fishers movements. These strategies and forms have shaped fishers movements and their capacity to build productive alliances, raise the profile of fisheries issues, and provide a critical voice in political processes. Their diverse strategies also illuminate how mobilization within fishers movements has not been historically static, but has shifted in visibility and cohesion depending on the particular historical moment and global political and economic contexts.

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The Research in Progress seminars are intended to provide an informal venue for presentations of ongoing research by ISS scholars and other scholars from the wider development studies community.