1 November, 2021

Author: Bryan P. Galligan, S.J.

Publication Type: Paper


Bryan P. Galligan, “Fisheries Extractivism and the Right to Subsistence: Conflicting Governance Models and the Legal Structures That Enact Them,” Marine Policy 133 (November 2021): 104729, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2021.104729.


Approaches to global fisheries governance generally fall into one of two broad categories, tending to rely either on an extractivist model that prioritizes macroeconomic growth or a norms-based model that subordinates economic processes to ethical social objectives. While global fisheries could contribute much more effectively and directly to fulfilling the human right to subsistence (an ethical norm that is as universal and binding as any under international law), their potential to do so is undermined by legal structures that favor the extractivist model and fail to legislate ethical norms. These legal structures undermine the human right to subsistence, in large part by marginalizing small-scale fisheries, which provide for the subsistence needs of many more food-insecure people around the world than do their industrial counterparts. After illustrating the conflict between extractivism and ethical norms in international fisheries law, this article turns to the case of South African small-scale fisheries, which provides a more concrete and place-based view of these power dynamics and demonstrates the resilience of the extractivist paradigm in the face of norms-based challenges. If global fisheries are to contribute more fully to the realization of the human right to subsistence, the extractivist model will need to be seriously constrained and ethical norms will have to be given pride of place in fisheries law and policy.