Contributing to inclusive governance of small-scale fisheries in coastal communities in Northern-Norway for resilience to environmental and socioeconomic changes.


Small-scale fisheries are important for food, employment, and coastal culture worldwide. Securing sustainable small-scale fisheries are included as a part of UN Sustainable Developmental goals, however attaining this goal may prove challenging as small-scale fisheries in the North are declining, with consequences for fishery dependent coastal communities, coastal culture and the access to an occupation valued for the freedom and flexibility it provides.

Photo: Ann Eileen Lennert

Climate-induced changes in fish stocks and marine ecosystems, along with the development of the blue economy, where oceans and coasts are increasingly viewed as a frontier for investments in new and often conflicting industries such as aquaculture, tourism, seabed mining, renewable energy and petroleum, will likely exacerbate this challenge in coming years. In Norway, climate-change has already and will likely continue to change the distribution, migration patterns and abundance of fish stocks. Other challenges include ocean acidification, competition with industrial- and recreational fishing, increased technological efficiency, loss of local ecological knowledge, as well as the negative environmental effect on coastal species and habitats caused by fisheries themselves.

Photo: Redningsselskapet

Fishers adapt to changes using a variety of strategies, such as diversification (i.e., utilizing a variety of different resources), mobility (e.g., changing fishing area), storage of information (e.g., the preservation of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)) and it is important for decision-makers to be aware of and sensitive to these local adaptations to avoid weakening resilience. Inclusive governance, i.e., where a diversity of actors are included in decision-making through a reflexive, iterative and deliberative process, is thought to be a prerequisite for an equitable and sustainable blue economy, as it can lead to both positive social and ecological outcomes and the adaptive capacity of small-scale fisheries to environmental changes, by for instance creating ownership and encouraging responsible fishing, improved management through use of TEK, increased compliance with regulations, and better monitoring and control by fishers.

Photo: Redningsselskapet

Through marine spatial planning decision-makers have the difficult task of balancing different and often conflicting needs of industries and interests, and all the while taking into consideration the environmental impacts of these activities. If conducted through top-down processes based on sector-based objectives such as conservation, renewable energy or aquaculture, marine spatial planning risks marginalizing small-scale fisheries in the allocation of space, leading to so-called ocean grabbing.

In Norway intermunicipal coastal zone planning processes have succeeded in generating a more holistic and integrated approach to marine spatial planning however the influence of small-scale fishers’ concerns in coastal zone planning is less known. Surveys of the local populations in Norwegian communities suggest that there is room for improvement in terms of participation in local decision-making in general in Norway, results that were also confirmed by local stakeholders involved in BlueTrans in 2019, where local fishers’ involvement in activities/processes related to tourist fishery and aquaculture development, and the use and preservation of TEK was mentioned specifically. In Norway fishers have successfully been included in fisheries management (e.g., quota setting, regulating fishery activity), however the increased competition for coastal space spurred by growth in the blue economy, heightens the importance of their involvement in marine spatial planning processes such as coastal zone planning.


The first aim of InclusiveCoasts is to assess how local governments in coastal communities in Northern-Norway understand and work towards securing coastal small-scale fisheries under current and projected environmental and socioeconomic changes. We seek to identify the scope and practices of local participation in coastal zone planning processes, with emphasis on small-scale fisheries.

The second aim is to identify how indicators for sustainable coastal development can be developed and communicated to have practical application for decision-making, to add to the work of BlueTrans where we co-create indicators for sustainable coastal development (including small-scale fisheries) together with local communities in Northern-Norway.