Fisheries are not one and the same, and should not be treated as such. But while there is a lot of knowledge regarding large-scale, marine-based fisheries in developed countries, far less attention is being paid to small-scale fisheries in developing countries, whether in marine or inland areas. Under these circumstances, fisheries management and development strategies work in favour of less than half of the world’s fisheries, and disadvantage the rest. The Too Big To Ignore (TBTI) global research network has set itself the task of changing this.
Small-scale fisheries occur in aquatic ecosystems anywhere in the world, often in rural and isolated areas. They are diverse in their characteristics, complex in their organisation and dynamic in their operations. Therefore they present a major challenge for research and a ‘wicked problem’ for management and governance. This was the impetus for the establishment of the (TBTI) global research network in 2012, which has brought together researchers around the world to work collaboratively with each other and with small-scale fisheries communities and various supporting organisations.
The primary aims of TBTI are to enhance knowledge about this important sector and address concerns and challenges affecting their viability and sustainability. With the contribution of more than 600 members, TBTI has been able to provide detailed insights about small-scale fisheries, based on more than 300 case studies from at least 80 countries. This work has been disseminated, not only through conventional academic outlets, such as peer-reviewed books and journal articles, but also as free online publications, available for download from the TBTI website. Furthermore, TBTI has developed a comprehensive Information System for Small-scale Fisheries (ISSF) based on a crowd-sourcing platform that enables data sharing and broad-based synthesis (see Figure). ISSF contains information about various aspects of small-scale fisheries research, key characteristics of small-scale fisheries around the world, and examples of injustices in them.