097, Nakul Saran, Rare | Near-Shore Fishers, Fish Forever

Near-shore fishers are the smallholder farmers of the sea.

Nakul Saran fell in love with the ocean when he was 10 years-old. After graduating from university with a degree in Ocean Engineering, he joined McKinsey & Company. At the time, McKinsey was establishing a climate change special initiative. Nakul spent more than seven years at McKinsey, splitting time between their economic development practice and their sustainability practice. He spent his time at the intersection of natural resource protection with economic development. Nakul said of his time at McKinsey, “One of the things I learned there was, how do you structure a problem in a clear way.”

As Nakul worked on the issue of fisheries, he noticed that most of the efforts were being directed at the half of fishers who were large-scale and industrial. He told me, “50% of the global catch comes from large industrial fishing boats. The remaining 50% comes from small-scale fishers, where the issue is about more than profitability. It’s really about livelihood. Ninety percent of all fishers are small-scale fishers. Ninety percent of boats are small-scale boats.”

As Nakul thought about the plight of small-scale, near-shore fishers, he came across the nonprofit organization Rare who was just launching their project, Fish Forever. Fish Forever is an initiative of three organizations: Rare, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sustainable Fisheries Group within the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Problem for Near-Shore Fishers

The oceans have always been an important source of food. In some societies, around 50% of their protein comes from seafood. On an annual basis, humans catch between 80 and 90 metric tons of ocean life. When combined with other pressures such as population growth, higher demand for seafood and climate change, this has put a strain on the fisheries, especially in poor coastal communities.

Two-thirds of near-shore fisheries are either fully depleted or are in severe decline. Ten years ago, a near-shore fisher could catch 40 kg of fish in a day, while today they can only catch 3 kg with the same effort.

We know how to recover these fisheries and how to operate them in a sustainable way, but there are some barriers that stand in the way. The first is that no one person or party can change the entire system without the cooperation of others. You need a high degree of collaboration and coordination across many countries.

The Solution for Near-Shore Fishers

For near-shore fisheries, there is a known solution. It’s called a TURF Reserve. TURF is an acronym for Territorial User Rights for Fishing. A TURF gives the fishermen the rights over the natural resources on which they depend. The near-shore fishers set aside a “no-take zone” or a reserve area. This allows the fish a chance to recover, while increasing the population outside of the reserve.

Rare, through their project Fish Forever, works with local near-shore fishers to set up the TURFs in consultation with local governments. They also provide the training for how to manage the TURF. The local fishers monitor the TURF and report violations to the local authorities. This in turn allows the local officials to focus their efforts instead of having to patrol a wider area.

When Rare partners with a community, they identify local change leaders who are often from the local government agencies responsible for managing this resource. Rare trains them to be campaign managers. Through this process, Rare helps mend the broken social contract between governments and local people, building a relationship of trust.

Near-Shore Fishers Quotes from Nakul Saran

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘There is story of hope here.’ @nakul_saran, @Rare_org  #SocEnt “]

“You can actually recover these fisheries and if you recover these fisheries, you will actually be able to get more fish.”

“Fisheries in many countries is the classic tragedy of the commons.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Rare is a behavior change and training organization.’ @nakul_saran, @Rare_org #behaviorchange“]

“Ultimately, it is not about us telling communities what to do. It’s about us equipping them with the tools to make the decisions they think are most appropriate for their communities.”

“The research has shown that one of the most powerful ways to help communities adapt to climate change is to help lift them out of poverty.”

“Unless you can articulate the problem clearly, you’re not going to come up with an effective solution.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Sometimes complex problems require complex solutions.’ @nakul_saran, @Rare_org #complexity“]

“You can build coalitions around problems. That’s where you start to see transformational impact.”

“It’s really important that you take the time in building a community around a problem and then the answer.”

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About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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